Pharmacy Times interviewed Jay Lieberman, MD, a pediatric infections specialist and the senior medical director of PRA Health Sciences, about the value of the pharmacist in administering COVID-19 vaccines to adolescents and children.
Lieberman was a speaker at the World Vaccination Congress in a session on COVID-19 disease and vaccines for adolescents and children, particularly in light of his unique take on the subject as he enrolled his twin daughters in the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine trial .
Alana Hippensteele: What do you think is the value of the pharmacist in administering vaccine to children and adults during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Jay Lieberman: Yes, I think pharmacists and pharmacies can play a very important role in vaccinating individuals against COVID-19.
To continue the family affair here, my wife is a hospital pharmacist, and when the vaccine was first approved, she was naturally vaccinated. She was first in line.
But she also made it her personal mission to vaccinate as many people as possible. That meant learning the systems, and getting in line to get back to different locations was a challenge, and it varied from city to city, province to province, state to state.
She worked hard, sometimes getting up at 3 a.m. to get a family member eligible for vaccination for an appointment with CFS, so she made that her personal mission.
In addition, she has now worked well in more than a dozen clinics in her hospital on community sites. She was at Disneyland to administer the vaccine. She recruited friends of hers, fellow pharmacists, doctors, nurses to set up a clinic at the location. As a result, I mean, thousands of people who would not have been vaccinated that day were able to get vaccinated.
So when the vaccination rollout started, a lot of them were obviously big pods, big sites. But it has now moved to pharmacies and eventually to doctors’ offices.
So, improving access and people know their local pharmacy, they go there – having access is a huge progress. We want to make it easy for people to get vaccinated.
Alana Hippensteele: Absolutely. On that note, do you think kids would feel safe, or I mean possibly not if Disneyland is the other option, but potentially safer than maybe certain mass vaccination sites at their local pharmacy versus some of these other locations?
Jay Lieberman: Yes, again, it’s what’s easily accessible. Where do people feel comfortable? Clearly pharmacies play an important role in vaccinating adults against flu, pneumonia and shingles, and I think COVID-19 fits in very well with that.
So again, local access, easy access, increases the ability for people to get the vaccine when they want it.
Alana Hippensteele: Turn right. What are your expectations for the future regarding the development and administration of COVID-19 vaccines among adolescents and children?
Jay Lieberman: Yes. So first of all, let me note that in the United States we have obviously made tremendous progress in reducing the incidence of COVID-19. It is important to understand and recognize that that success is almost entirely due to vaccination.
So the problem we have now is raising vaccination rates among adults and now teens in the United States who, for whatever reason, were hesitant or waiting.
We need to expand the vaccination to younger ages, so in addition to the 12-year-old daughters, we have a 9-year-old and a 7-year-old, and we want them to be vaccinated as well.
Again, vaccinating them protects them, it protects us, it protects the people we care about, and it allows them to get back to the things kids and teens should be doing.
Jay Lieberman: I also just mentioned how successful we have been in the United States. Unfortunately, not everyone in the world has access, and there are just tragedies happening in many parts of the world.
So vaccines have to get to them too. Not only is it the right thing to do, the ethical thing to do, the humanitarian thing to do, but it also helps protect us because this virus is global.
The more the virus is allowed to circulate unchecked in communities, the greater the chance that new variants will develop. So we’re pretty comfortable in the United States right now, and hopefully things will continue to run smoothly, but it would be a mistake to say we’re done.
Again, the way out is vaccines, and it has to be global. So that’s the hope for the future, and hopefully for the near future.
Alana Hippensteele: Yes absolutely. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today, Dr. Lieberman.
Jay Lieberman: Alan, thank you very much. Really appreciate it.