Background: Immunization rates among the adult population in Poland are below desired targets, urging the need to expand this service in the community. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the ultimate goals for limiting the spread of the infection are vaccines against SARS-CoV-2. Pharmaceutical companies are in a race for the fastest possible way to deliver vaccines. Community pharmacists in Poland are recognised as an accessible yet underutilised group of medical professionals. Therefore, involving pharmacists in vaccinations may have beneficial results for the healthcare system.
Objectives: The objectives of this study were to assess the readiness and willingness of community pharmacists following the Pharmacist Without Borders project who had either been trained or not in providing immunization services, and to identify the factors that may support the implementation of such services in Poland.
Methods: This study was conducted among pharmacists between February and August 2020 in Poland. A survey was developed to determine their readiness to provide vaccination services in their pharmacies, to recognise any barriers to vaccinations, as well as the factors necessary to implement vaccination services in Polish pharmacies.
Results: A total of 1777 pharmacists participated in the study, comprising 127 (7.1%) pharmacists trained in vaccinations during the Pharmacists Without Borders project and 1650 (92.9%) pharmacists not participating in the workshops. Pharmacists participating in the workshops more often indicated that providing vaccinations in community pharmacies would improve the overall vaccination rate (p = 0.0001), and that pharmacists could play an important role in advertising and promoting vaccinations (p = 0.0001). For the pharmacists not participating in the workshops, they indicated to a much greater extent possible barriers affecting the readiness to provide vaccinations in pharmacies. They most often pointed out that vaccination services would result in a significant workload increase (p = 0.0001), that pharmacies were not adapted to immunization, and that there were not enough training courses for pharmacists (p = 0.0001).
Conclusion: The pharmacists working in community pharmacies indicated many advantages of vaccinations in pharmacies. This study identified barriers to the introduction of vaccinations and factors necessary to implement these services in pharmacies. The pharmacists trained during the immunization programme of the Pharmacists Without Borders project showed a greater readiness to provide immunization services.
Keywords: Pharmacist Without Borders project; Poland; community pharmacists; immunization services; vaccines.