Friday, May 25, 2018

Rural seniors are less likely to be vaccinated for pneumonia; rural pharmacists could play a major role in closing that gap

Seniors in rural areas are less likely to be vaccinated for pneumonia, and those that do get immunized are more likely to get the vaccine from a pharmacist than seniors in urban areas. That suggests that rural pharmacists could play a major role in filling the vaccination gap, Melissa Patrick reports for Kentucky Health News.

A national study by the Rural and Underserved Health Research Center at the University of Kentucky found that vaccination rates for pneumonia among Medicare patients are 40 percent lower in rural communities than in urban areas: 2.81 percent and 4.66 percent, respectively. It found that 72.5 percent of seniors vaccinated for pneumonia got the shot from a primary-care provider and 22.2 percent got it from their pharmacist. In rural areas, the pharmacists' share was 29.4 percent; in urban areas, it was 21.1 percent.

Rosemary Smith, a co-owner of six Jordan Drug stores in Eastern Kentucky, told Patrick that the vaccination rate in rural areas is probably lower because they have fewer health-care providers and most of "our people" are not "wellness oriented" -- but almost every community has access to a pharmacist. "They may go to their physician two or three times a year," she said, "but we see them two or three times a month sometimes."

The researchers note that the death rate from pneumonia for seniors doubles, from 20 percent to 40 percent, between the ages of 65 and 85, and despite the recommendation that everyone 65 and older get vaccinated for the disease, fewer than two-thirds do. Smith told Patrick, "The opportunities are there to really move the needle on these vaccinations. . . . I had no idea there was such a difference in the vaccination rate between urban and rural. So I think we can do more and I think as an independent pharmacy group across the state, being the most accessible health-care provider, that we will do more and we will take this study to heart."

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