Impact of Pharmacists on Access to Vaccine Providers: A Geospatial Analysis

Original Scholarship

Policy Points:

  • Policymakers in the United States should consider expanding pharmacy practice laws to allow pharmacists to vaccinate adolescents as a way to improve geographic access to adolescent vaccines, particularly for human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which has low uptake.
  • Our state-level analysis showed that pharmacists are more geographically dispersed than primary care physicians in the US state of Texas.
  • Including pharmacists among available adolescent vaccine providers would improve the geographic distribution of vaccine providers, especially in areas with an inadequate number of primary care physicians.

Context: The largest disparities in human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination in the United States are due to geography. One potential way of addressing these disparities is by improving geographic access to HPV vaccination. Two federal panels have recommended including community pharmacists as HPV vaccine providers as a strategy to improve opportunities for HPV vaccination for adolescents. We sought to evaluate whether community pharmacists can improve the number of vaccine providers in areas with primary care physician shortages in the US state of Texas.

Methods: We gathered publicly available physician and pharmacist 2016 workforce data from the Texas Medical Board and Board of Pharmacy. We conducted geospatial analysis of census tracts to analyze the distribution of physicians and pharmacists and how pharmacists change vaccine provider coverage across the state.

Findings: Census tracts with high numbers of physicians per capita tended to be located near one another, in 5 of 5 analyses of Moran’s I (median = .04). In contrast, pharmacist rates were not spatially dependent on census tract in any of our analyses. If pharmacists were added to primary care physicians as vaccine providers, 35% of urban census tracts that previously had inadequate coverage would be adequately covered, while 18% of inadequately covered rural census tracts would become adequately covered. Overall, when pharmacists were included with primary care physicians as vaccine providers, vaccine providers per capita increased in 2,413 of the 4,508 urban census tracts (54%), while the rate increased in 223 of 746 rural census tracts (30%).

Conclusions: Pharmacists are more geographically dispersed across census tracts than primary care physicians. As a result, adding pharmacists to the workforce would increase the availability of vaccine providers in areas with inadequate primary care provider coverage.

Keywords: HPV vaccine, access to health care, pharmacists, geographic factors.

Read on Wiley Online Library

Volume 96, Issue 3 (pages 568-592)
DOI: 10.1111/1468-0009.12342
Published in 2018