4 chief pharmacy officers on how their systems are educating patients on COVID-19 vaccine side effects

As hospitals and health systems around the country begin to vaccinate their workers, the number of Americans willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine is increasing, according to surveys from Kaiser Family Foundation

Public health experts have warned of the need to educate the public about the potential side effects of COVID-19 vaccines, ensuring they understand that side effects are normal and people shouldn't be deterred  from being vaccinated. Four chief pharmacy officers recently spoke to Becker's Hospital Review about how their health systems are  educating their patients and the public about potential side effects: 

Editor's Note: Responses have been edited lightly for length and clarity. 

Tim Lynch, PharmD, system vice president of clinical support services & chief pharmacy officer, MultiCare Health System (Tacoma, Wash.): We are leveraging many avenues to engage our patients, employees and the community about the COVID-19 vaccine. As we have throughout the pandemic, we use town hall events and other recurring meetings to solicit questions and concerns, provide situational awareness and education to our employees, and answer common questions. We often record these and post them on our intranet for employees who can’t make the meeting. Early in the pandemic, we also created a microsite where we post the latest protocols, signage and other COVID-specific resources for employees and use a weekly email to flag updates and additions to the site.

Specific to this vaccine, we also developed an employee survey to determine interest in and concerns about the vaccination so we can incorporate that into our vaccine planning. Very early in the pandemic, we created a specific section on our website for any COVID-related information for our patients and community members – including FAQs, informational videos from our staff and updates on visitor restrictions. We used a variety of channels, including social media, emails to patients, newsletters to our community partners, and more, to share regular updates and will continue to use these channels to provide vaccination information. Providing accurate information is critical in support of our patients, employees and the communities we serve. 

Kuldip Patel, PharmD, interim chief pharmacy officer, Duke University Hospital (Durham, N.C.): We are communicating at all levels to enhance the awareness of the safety and efficacy of this vaccine. Through huddles, town halls, staff meetings and leader rounding, we are cascading information to all of our healthcare workers to become educated about the vaccine so that they can help those in the community understand the benefits of the vaccine versus the risks of infection. Those who have safety concerns are encouraged to speak with their primary care provider. We also have infection prevention and infectious diseases experts who are doing a tremendous job of advocating for the vaccine. Encouraging everyone to be cognizant and vigilant with using reliable sources of medical information is critical so that we can all be better informed.

Gary Kerr, PharmD, chief pharmacy officer, Baystate Health (Springfield, Mass.): Organizational steps regarding educating patients and the general public continue to evolve by the day. The primary focus is to stay current with the science, using national, regional, local and organization resources. Multidisciplinary teams of clinical and administrative leaders are working tirelessly, nearly 24/7, to maintain timely and evidence-based communications.

Kevin Colgan, vice president, chief pharmacy officer, UChicago Medicine: Our urban health initiative and chief diversity and inclusion officer is involved in an extensive plan to provide education on COVID-19 vaccines to the South Side community to help overcome any skepticism of the vaccines.


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