USP’s recently released COVID-19 Vaccine Handling Toolkit is helping to fill critical operational efficiency gaps that practice settings have identified in vaccine administration.
National and international attention highlighted the initial challenges surrounding the preparation, transportation and administration of COVID-19 vaccines. Addressing these challenges, the newly available toolkit is helping to minimize potential waste, maximize shots in arms, and increase confidence that procedures are consistent wherever patients receive vaccinations.
Created by USP as part of its ongoing COVID-19 response through engagement with diverse stakeholder groups and experts, the toolkit provides critical information to pharmacists, doctors, nurses, physician assistants, health profession students and others who are involved in handling COVID-19 vaccines. This essential resource supports safe handling and accelerated delivery while maintaining quality and, ultimately, the public’s trust.
Recently, I sat down with toolkit user Patricia Slattum* – a USP delegate for the American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics (ASCPT) who has used the toolkit in her roles as vaccine administrator for the Virginia Medical Reserve Corp and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) – to hear directly from the front lines about how the toolkit is contributing to her vital work.
Q: How has the USP COVID-19 Vaccine Handling Toolkit helped your team’s response effort?
A: I volunteer at a variety of different sites for the Medical Reserve Corp and VCU. The setting where I have applied the toolkit the most – because I am involved directly in planning – is a community clinic where we are specifically reaching out to underserved people of color to address disparities in vaccine availability for high-risk communities. Using the strategies from the toolkit for pre-drawing syringes and streamlining our processes and workflow, we have increased shots in arms by 50% per day. With some experience under our belts, we hope to increase those numbers even further as the vaccine supply increases.
Q: Can you elaborate on specific practice changes that facilitated the increase?
A: Before we had the toolkit, we were drawing doses for administration on a ‘just-in-time’ basis. The toolkit facilitated our movement toward pre-drawing syringes by a central team through a standardized process. We followed the recommendations for labeling pre-drawn syringes to increase confidence that doses were being used within the required time intervals. This, coupled with improvements in our overall processes and workflow, allowed us to increase efficiency.
Q: Why is consistency in vaccine handling across different geographies and communities so important?
A: Consistency in vaccine handling is important for several reasons. First, there are many healthcare providers (paid and volunteer) working to deploy vaccines as quickly as possible, so having standardized procedures and training helps ensure the highest quality of service. Consistent handling strategies also help vaccinators be as efficient as possible while our vaccine supplies are so limited, to minimize waste resulting from mishandling of doses. Lastly, consistency also helps to build public confidence in the vaccine administration process when the same procedures are followed for first and second vaccine doses, or when people’s experience of receiving the vaccine is similar to the experience related by family and friends.
Q: Your work with USP also includes participating in its new Healthcare Practice Sector. Why do you feel participation is important?
A: Participation in the new Healthcare Practice Sector for USP Convention members offers the opportunity to engage with other Convention members around issues relevant in the practice environment. For example, it was through the Healthcare Practice Sector that I learned of the COVID-19 Vaccine Handling Toolkit, which proved to be particularly timely and relevant as we were planning our earliest vaccination events in the community. I look forward to learning how participating in the Sector as a Convention delegate can further facilitate my engagement with USP. As the USP Convention delegate for ASCPT, my broader work with USP includes representing and sharing the priorities and perspectives of ASCPT and its constituents, providing input on USP plans, engaging other ASCPT representatives as appropriate, and voting for proposed Resolutions, the USP Council of Experts and the Board of Trustees. At the same time, I keep our network updated on USP thought leadership, resources and progress.
Thank you Dr. Slattum.
*Patricia W. Slattum, Pharm.D., Ph.D., BCGP, is a USP Convention delegate for the American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, and vaccine administrator at the Virginia Commonwealth University Vaccine Corps and the Virginia Department of Health Medical Reserve Corp. She is also professor emeritus of pharmacotherapy and outcomes science at Virginia Commonwealth University, and adjunct professor, Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program, at the Virginia Center on Aging.