Anticipating the growing need for health professionals to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine, Duquesne University has trained hundreds of pharmacists and pharmacy students over the past several months to do just that.

The university's School of Pharmacy delivers the American Pharmacist Association Pharmacy Based Immunization Delivery program, a certificate program that trains pharmacists on how to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine and other immunizations and vaccinations. Since summer 2020, the university has provided training to more than 200 pharmacists locally and nationally. In early 2021, more than 400 Duquesne pharmacy students will have received the certification and be eligible to deliver the vaccine. (Students may deliver the vaccine if supervised by an authorized pharmacist.)

"Through this certification program, we are meeting an important community health need," said Dr. Tiffany Hatcher, assistant professor of pharmacy at Duquesne. "As the first phase of vaccinations are completed and the vaccine becomes more widely available, there will be a large need for pharmacists and other health professionals to provide vaccinations to the public. Our faculty and students are prepared to assist in this effort."

Duquesne pharmacy students already conduct chronic disease health screenings, assist in asthma clinics and help deliver flu shots in underserved areas, promoting health equity in the region. The new certification reflects Duquesne's commitment to preparing students for hands-on experience in their fields.

While the pharmacy school regularly provides vaccination courses, the pandemic forced the certification training to pivot to remote learning, Hatcher explained. At the same time, the school began receiving an increasing number of requests for the training.

"Pharmacists were telling us that they had trouble finding anyplace that was offering the certification," Hatcher said. "We also saw an increasing number of hospital and health center pharmacists, who are not usually responsible for vaccinations, ask for it. We were one of the only schools offering this training."

Hatcher, Assistant Pharmacy Professor Dr. Robert Laux and Dr. Elizabeth Bunk, manager of Duquesne's Center for Pharmacy Care, transitioned the 20-hour program online, which includes teaching and assessing pharmacists on injection technique.

While a vaccine distribution plan for the general public is not in place yet, Hatcher said she expects that pharmacists and students will be working in clinics or larger spaces, which will allow for social distancing so that the public can receive the vaccine safely.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 8,000 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University's academic programs, community service and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim.

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January 20, 2021