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Interview

Pharmacist Perceptions of the COVID-19 Vaccine


December 09, 2020

By Julie Gould 

Sonia Jacob, PharmD, first year fellow within MarcusSonia Jacob, PharmD, first‑year fellow, Rutgers University/Johnson & Johnson, discusses her recent study that evaluated pharmacists’ perceptions of a COVID-19 vaccine and the associated determinants that may impact a pharmacist’s perceptions of either receiving or recommending a COVID-19 vaccine.

What led you to conduct this research?

What led me to conduct this was a survey earlier this year about the general public and how they viewed the COVID‑19 vaccine. Throughout my pharmaceutical career, we would talk about vaccine hesitancy and how to tackle misinformation as health care professionals. This is the first time in history that vaccine research, approval, and distribution is happening within the time frame of a global pandemic. 

I wanted to be able to address pharmacists' perceptions of the vaccines to further understand their reasons, concerns, and barriers of why they would receive and recommend a COVID-19 vaccine. By doing so, we can understand how to further tailor vaccine education, address those concerns, with the hope to lower vaccine hesitancy. 

Of your study findings, were any of them surprising? If they were, why was it so surprising?

I thought it was surprising that only about half of pharmacists surveyed were extremely likely to receive and  recommend the vaccine. Of the reasons that pharmacists would delay or refuse the vaccine, I thought it was interesting that some pharmacists choose to refuse and delay the vaccine because they felt that social-distancing and masks alone were sufficient for protection. Pharmacists also voiced that they would need to see further safety and efficacy data, and that they feared that trials were rushed due to political motives. The limitations of our survey were that it was conducted between September and November, so at that time vaccine data was scarce. Perceptions may change now that we have further progress in vaccine trials in recent news. 

Now, taking your findings, on top of what is now known about the vaccines, how can pharmacists take this and put it to their day‑to‑day lives? What should they expect once the vaccine comes out?

I think being able to know what types of clinical information to prioritize will help pharmacists make the decision. A lot of the concerns pharmacists had were, "i have not seen the data to be comfortable enough recommending or receiving the vaccine," or "I don't know what the vaccines are going to look like."

Now that we know what clinical data is prioritized as pharmacists, and now that we have some of that data available, we are able to create education materials tailored toward patients, pharmacists, and other healthcare providers. At this time message framing should be considered to address concerns, risks, and benefits appropriately to tailor individual care. Pharmacists can apply this information by understanding the barriers of vaccine acceptance, and use the progress that has been made with vaccines to combat vaccine hesitancy. 

One last question. This is just totally based off of your findings and looking at the future, what are you most excited about? I know this is a very uncertain time, so knowing what pharmacists are expecting with the vaccine, what are you specifically looking forward towards?

Sure. Coming from a pharmaceutical industry perspective, I think it is the fact that we're all working together. We hear the term race a lot, but I really don't think it's a race; I think we'll need multiple vaccines. Traditionally, pharmaceutical companies are looking to be more innovative than then next. But in this case, we're all working together to provide hope during an uncertain time. 

About Sonia Jacob

Sonia Jacob, PharmD, is a first‑year fellow with Rutgers University/Johnson & Johnson. She is in the pharmaceutical industry and is affiliated with the record fellowship program and Johnson & Johnson. Her position is Medical Information, and she works within infectious diseases and vaccines.

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