Ask a Pharmacist: Flu Season and COVID-19

Ronald Richmond, R.Ph., MPH, Senior Vice President of Provider Relations, Paramount Rx

Why is getting a flu vaccine more important than ever this year?

Getting a flu shot this year is very important as we struggle through the current COVID-19 pandemic. Both Flu and COVID-19 are viruses that attack the respiratory tract. While we don’t currently have a lot of experience with co-infections of these viruses, we do know it is possible to contract both at the same time. Having Flu and COVID-19 simultaneously could result in much more severe illness, especially for those with underlying diseases or vulnerable populations, like the elderly.

Is the pharmacy industry preparing for flu season differently this year? If so, how?
Pharmacies in general have anticipated an increased demand for flu shots this year. The benefits of immunizations have been highlighted much more this year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Coupled with the potential for Flu co-infection with COVID-19 and more severe illness, it is thought that many people may seek out a flu shot this year, even if they haven’t routinely done so in the past. Pharmacies have been preparing for this increased demand by ensuring they have adequate supplies of flu vaccine on hand.

Are there special precautions pharmacists are taking this flu season to safely administer vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Pharmacists are keenly aware of the importance of social distancing. However, the administration of the vaccines does require close contact between the patient and the pharmacist. To minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread during immunizations, the pharmacist wears a mask and gloves, and the patient is required to wear a mask. Social distancing is maintained while the pharmacist is not administering the vaccine.

What would you tell an at-risk person about getting a flu vaccine this season?

While everyone should get a flu shot this year to lower their risk of co-infection with COVID-19, getting a flu shot is even more critical for those with underlying disease states and the elderly. These individuals are already at greater risk for more severe illness with a flu infection. Flu vaccines for the current year usually become available well in advance of flu season, and flu shots are readily available at most retail pharmacies and doctor’s offices. In short, lack of access is really not an excuse for not getting your flu shot. For those aged 65 and above, who have poorer immune responses to flu vaccines than younger people, a “high dose” or “adjuvanted” version of the flu shot may be used to achieve a better immune response, and better protection against flu.

What about children? Can they get a flu shot at the Pharmacy? How about a COVID-19 shot when the vaccine becomes available?

Earlier this year, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) issued an amendment under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act) that allows licensed pharmacists meeting specific requirements to order and administer approved or licensed vaccines to children ages three and above. Further guidance under the amendment expands the authorization to administer these vaccines to qualified pharmacy technicians and interns working under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist. The amendment was considered an important step in ensuring adequate access to immunizations for children during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, many pharmacies have moved ahead with the training programs required for their staff to administer flu and other approved vaccines to children ages three and above. Check with your local pharmacy to verify they can provide flu immunizations to your children.

When a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, your local pharmacy may provide the most convenient access to receive this immunization. However, current vaccine trials in the United States do not include children under the age of 12. Therefore, additional information is needed before we can further discuss COVID-19 immunizations in children. Nonetheless, once an approved COVID-19 vaccine is determined to be safe in children, it will likely become available for the immunization of children at pharmacies whose qualified staff meet the requirements established by the amendment to the PREP Act.

For more details on Community Cares Rx and other programs that provide cost savings on prescription medications, please visit www.paramountrx.com.

 

How to Safely Celebrate the Holidays: Tips from Health Experts

The holiday season is usually a time to reconnect with friends and family, but with the ongoing pandemic, celebrating the holidays may look a little different this year. However, you can still safely enjoy the company of your loved ones this holiday season.

Here are a few tips to celebrate safely!

Tip #1: Gather outdoors

While the winter months are bringing cooler temperatures around the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still recommend trying to host gatherings outdoors rather than indoors. Setting up tents with properly ventilated sidewalls can help protect you from the elements. Going for a stroll to look at festive decorations or organizing a distanced neighborhood caroling night will get everyone in the holiday spirit! If you have to host an event indoors, the CDC has outlined ways to best prepare your home for socially distant gatherings.

Tip #2: Keep your company small

Holiday dinner is not off the table – health experts are simply recommending that you host a meal for those that live in your immediate household. Keeping your gatherings small helps to limit direct contact with those who do not live in your home. If you’re hosting, stock up on supplies to keep everyone healthy, like extra masks, hand sanitizer and disposable hand towels in the bathroom. Using single-use dishware, encouraging guests to bring their own food and setting up designated spaces are among the CDC’s recommendations for gatherings.

Tip #3: Get creative

There are plenty of new and creative ways to celebrate the holidays that do not necessarily involve face-to-face interaction. Activities like shopping online can replace the traditional Black Friday rush. You can host virtual watch parties for Thanksgiving football and holiday parades. Try dropping off a home cooked meal to a neighbor or relative – that way you can continue to safely share your favorite family recipes this holiday season!

Staying up to date on your medications is important this holiday season, and prescription discount programs like Community Cares Rx can help you find the best prices. For more information on Community Cares Rx and other cost-saving programs, please visit www.communitycaresrx.com. 

Brush up on the Basics of Dental Hygiene

Dental Hygiene Awareness Month is the perfect reminder to prioritize your dental health. Practicing good dental care from infancy to adulthood has benefits beyond keeping your teeth and gums healthy. Research has shown that there’s an association between a person’s dental health and their overall health. Check out these tips to keep your smile healthy and bright:

Tip #1 Brush, Floss, Rinse, Repeat!

Brushing is one of the most important steps in your daily dental routine. The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth for at least two minutes, twice a day, with a soft-bristled brush. Timed toothbrushes make it easy to brush for the recommended amount of time, and you can also listen to your favorite song while brushing!

Did you know your teeth make up less than half of your mouth? It’s easy to miss hard-to-reach areas, which can allow harmful bacteria to build up on your gums and tongue. That’s why flossing is a great addition to your daily routine. Flossing removes plaque and bacteria from between the teeth, where a toothbrush is unable to reach. It can also help prevent bad breath by removing debris and trapped food.

Tip #2: Consider the Effects of your Diet

When possible, limit your consumption of sugary and acidic foods like sour candies, carbonated drinks and crunchy snacks. Sugar breaks down into acid inside your mouth, which can erode the enamel on your teeth and cause cavities. And after indulging in these foods, be sure to drink water to help offset some of the negative effects in between brushes. The ADA also recommends eating plenty of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, as well as dairy products without added sugar.

Tip #3: Visit the Dentist Regularly  

Although you’re keeping up with your daily dental habits, be sure to visit the dentist at least every six months for routine cleanings and checkups. Not only will your dentist give you a deep clean, but they’ll also be able to spot potential issues like cavities, gum disease and gingivitis and offer treatment solutions. If you’ve noticed any potential concerns, like bleeding gums, sensitivity or jaw pain come prepared with questions you'd like to ask your dentist or hygienist. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some dentists are able to provide teledentistry appointments for certain issues.

Making the best health decisions also includes finding the best deals on medications. Participating in prescription discount programs like Community Cares Rx can help you get the best prices. For more information on Community Cares Rx and other programs that can help you save money, please visit www.paramountrx.com.

Celebrating Health Literacy Month: How to Stay Informed About Your Health Decisions

The world of medicine is complicated, and healthcare literacy is a stressful issue for most Americans. It is important for your doctor to help make healthcare easier to understand, and for you to take a proactive role in your care. Here are some tips to keep in mind during Health Literacy Month:  

Tip #1 Find the Right Doctor for You

Establishing a strong relationship with your doctor is a key step in making smart decisions about your health, but it can be challenging to find the right fit. Communication plays a key role – you should feel comfortable speaking freely, and find an active listener who makes you feel heard. If you find yourself leaving an appointment with questions, or are unsure about the next steps to take, getting a second opinion can help guide you toward an more informed health decision.

Tip #2: Take an Active Role in Your Health Care

By taking an active role in your own health care, you are setting yourself up for success. Being open with your physician, asking questions proactively at check-ups and scheduling regular appointments are all ways to take charge. Do not be afraid to ask for clarification in conversations that confuse you – HealthLink says this is one of the best ways to make the most of your appointments! Being active in your health care goes beyond conversations in the doctor’s office. A simple task like organizing your medical records at home is a smart way to stay prepared when the time comes to make a health decision.

Tip #3: Use Reliable Outlets for Online Health Information

Searching the Internet for health information can be a quick and easy way to educate yourself, but it is easy to go down a rabbit hole of misinformation if you are not looking in the right places. Start with The National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s website or health websites sponsored by government agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Remember, your pharmacist is also a trusted resource for questions on alternative medications, immunizations and healthscreenings.

Making the best health decisions also includes finding the best deals on medications. Participating in prescription discount programs like Community Cares Rx can help you get the best prices. For more information on Community Cares Rx and other programs that can help you save money, please visit www.paramountrx.com.

Preparing for a Second Wave of COVID-19

With the first day of fall officially in the books, health experts across the nation are discussing the possibility of a COVID-19 resurgence in the coming weeks. Countries in Europe and Asia have already started to fend off a second wave of the disease, and as the weather starts to get cooler, it’s important to be prepared and stay vigilant about your health.  

Wondering what you can do to stay a step ahead and remain healthy this season? Here are a few tips:

  1. Get a flu shot
    Vaccination season is underway, and the CDC says it’s more important than ever to get a flu shot. In addition to staying healthy, getting your flu shot is a simple way for everyone to help alleviate the strain on the healthcare system, and allow them to focus time and resources on treating COVID-19 patients. To get your flu shot, contact or visit your local pharmacy – many accept walk-in appointments!
  2. Know your local COVID-19 guidelines
    Many parts of the country have seen schools and businesses reopen, or attempt to reopen, in recent weeks. States, cities and counties may have different regulations in place, so it’s helpful to know what precautions your community is taking. While some communities are easing restrictions, others are increasing them – and this is likely to keep changing as our knowledge of the pandemic evolves throughout the fall. Local regulations are designed to keep you safe and are following the latest data available. Remember, just because a restaurant or store has re-opened, they could close back up again. Find the latest restrictions your state’s Department of Health website to keep yourself up to date.
  3. Keep up the recommended prevention techniques
    During the summer, spending time outside was a great way to stay active and relatively safe, as COVID-19 is less transmittable in the open air. With cooler temperatures on the horizon, we will soon find ourselves back indoors, but it’s still as important to continue the same recommended prevention techniques. Make sure to keep washing your hands, especially after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Out in public, maintain six feet apart from other people and wear a face covering at all times – and don’t forget to wash your cloth mask after each use!

While preparing for a safe and healthy season, it can be helpful to find ways to save on your everyday medications by participating in prescription discount programs like Community Cares Rx. For information on Community Cares Rx and other cost-saving programs that can help you find discounts on prescription medications, please visit www.paramountrx.com.

Prioritize Your Wellbeing During Pain Awareness Month

100 million Americans live with chronic pain - that’s more than those with heart disease, diabetes and cancer combined. Understanding the underlying causes of your pain can help improve other areas of your health. That’s why Pain Awareness Month is the perfect time to assess your physical health and take steps to prioritize your overall wellbeing. Here are three tips to keep in mind this month that will help you feel your best:  

Tip #1: Put Your Health First  

In our fast-paced world, it can be easy to ignore the signs our bodies send, telling us that something is wrong. Concealing minor pain can often lead to more serious problems down the line. Scheduling regular checkups with a physician can help you treat minor problems before they become more serious.

Tip #2: Understand Treatment Options

We all experience pain differently, and our regimen to treat and manage that pain should be just as personalized. The U.S. Pain Foundation’s “My Pain Plan” allow people with chronic pain to create a unique, personalized treatment plan. This great resource can help you start a dialogue with your healthcare provider and chart a course for an effective treatment plan.

Tip #3: Manage Your Pain and Maximize Your Savings

An effective pain management strategy shouldn’t break the bank. By participating in prescription discount programs like Community Cares Rx, you’ll have free unlimited access to resources to help you save money. Online tools allow you to locate a pharmacy and research drug pricing and availability, helping to make your prescriptions more affordable.

For more details on Community Cares Rx and other programs that provide cost savings on prescription medications, please visit www.communitycaresrx.com.

 

Preparing for a Second Wave of COVID-19

With the first day of fall officially in the books, health experts across the nation are discussing the possibility of a COVID-19 resurgence in the coming weeks. Countries in Europe and Asia have already started to fend off a second wave of the disease, and as the weather starts to get cooler, it’s important to be prepared and stay vigilant about your health.  

Wondering what you can do to stay a step ahead and remain healthy this season? Here are a few tips:

  1. Get a flu shot
    Vaccination season is underway, and the CDC says it’s more important than ever to get a flu shot. In addition to staying healthy, getting your flu shot is a simple way for everyone to help alleviate the strain on the healthcare system, and allow them to focus time and resources on treating COVID-19 patients. To get your flu shot, contact or visit your local pharmacy – many accept walk-in appointments!
  2. Know your local COVID-19 guidelines
    Many parts of the country have seen schools and businesses reopen, or attempt to reopen, in recent weeks. States, cities and counties may have different regulations in place, so it’s helpful to know what precautions your community is taking. While some communities are easing restrictions, others are increasing them – and this is likely to keep changing as our knowledge of the pandemic evolves throughout the fall. Local regulations are designed to keep you safe and are following the latest data available. Remember, just because a restaurant or store has re-opened, they could close back up again. Find the latest restrictions your state’s Department of Health website to keep yourself up to date.
  3. Keep up the recommended prevention techniques
    During the summer, spending time outside was a great way to stay active and relatively safe, as COVID-19 is less transmittable in the open air. With cooler temperatures on the horizon, we will soon find ourselves back indoors, but it’s still as important to continue the same recommended prevention techniques. Make sure to keep washing your hands, especially after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Out in public, maintain six feet apart from other people and wear a face covering at all times – and don’t forget to wash your cloth mask after each use!

While preparing for a safe and healthy season, it can be helpful to find ways to save on your everyday medications by participating in prescription discount programs like Community Cares Rx. For information on Community Cares Rx and other cost-saving programs that can help you find discounts on prescription medications, please visit www.paramountrx.com.

Are You Up-To-Date On Your Vaccines? Find Out During National Immunization Month

 

Do you know if you’re up to date on your vaccinations? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), thousands of American adults get sick each year from diseases that vaccines can prevent. That’s why August is the perfect time to prioritize your health and update your immunizations.  In honor of National Immunization Month, check out the tips below to help keep you and your family healthy all year long.

Tip #1: Utilize Free Resources

Different vaccines are recommended based on your age, occupation, or health conditions, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes or heart disease. Keeping up with boosters and seasonal vaccines can be overwhelming and difficult to track. The CDC’s Interactive Vaccine Guide is a comprehensive resource that leads you through every vaccine – from pregnancy to adulthood! Pay close attention to this guide, as immunity from childhood vaccines can wear off over time.

Tip #2: Community Immunity 

When you get vaccinated, you’re protecting yourself and your community. Community immunity protects everyone, but it’s especially important for vulnerable populations that can’t get vaccinated for certain diseases. For example, some babies are too young to be protected by vaccination, others may not be able to receive certain vaccinations due to severe allergies or weakened immune systems. Opting in to annual vaccines help you protect your loved ones and community!

Tip #3: Don’t Break the Bank

Doctor visits, prescriptions and hospital bills can add up to thousands of dollars. In addition to getting annual vaccinations, doing a little research can help you maximize your health care savings. By participating in prescription discount programs like Community Cares Rx, you’ll have free unlimited access to resources to help you save money. Online tools allow you to locate a pharmacy and research drug pricing and availability, helping to make your prescriptions more affordable.

For more details on Community Cares Rx and other programs that provide cost savings on prescription medications, please visit www.communitycaresrx.com.

 

Ask a Pharmacist: The Role of Pharmacists During COVID-19

Ronald Richmond, R.Ph., MPH, Senior Vice President of Provider Relations, Paramount Rx

How are pharmacists implementing drive-thru COVID-19 testing? What are the challenges and opportunities with this type of testing?

The pharmacy industry is working rapidly to make more testing available to the public. While testing may be available at both chain and independent pharmacies, a majority of the drive-thru COVID-19 tests are being implemented by major chain pharmacies using appointment-based services. These drive-thru tests are administered primarily through supervised self-swabbing, which minimizes physical contact and provides a greater sense of safety. Some pharmacies are even distributing at-home self-swab test kits, reducing in-person contact to virtually zero. State regulations regarding which services pharmacists can perform under their scope of practice has been a hurdle. However, the states have been working to address these challenges. This may include authorizing pharmacists to provide testing under existing practice laws or waiving the requirement for collaborative practice arrangements to provide testing. Overall, the addition of pharmacy COVID-19 testing services will provide greater access to testing, which can help to identify positive cases more quickly and get patients to self-quarantine and any treatment they may need faster.

In your opinion, what is the most important role of pharmacists right now?

There are three critical components I believe should be a top priority at this time:

  1. Improving medication therapy outcomes by driving medication adherence
  2. Providing a local, accessible destination for preventive care services, such as immunizations
  3. Providing patient education on medications and health-related matters

How has COVID-19 changed the dynamics between pharmacists and patients?

The increased use of remote prescription services, such a delivery and mail-in orders, has eliminated face-to-face contact normally seen in pharmacist-patient interactions at the counter. This is a critical component of pharmacist-patient relationships, as it enhances the sense of community and trust. As pharmacies deal with short supplies or unavailable stock of essential items, pharmacists are adapting to provide patients with alternative products and resources. For example, if a pharmacy is out of alcohol swabs or Acetaminophen, the pharmacist can be consulted to suggest a safe alternative product.

Do you believe pharmacists will play a larger role in patient care moving forward?

In several states, pharmacists are already playing a larger role in delivering patient care. These services may include prescribing oral contraceptives, conducting finger-stick blood tests for blood glucose or throat swab tests for strep, and providing diabetes education, to name a few. The availability of these types of expanded services will vary depending on the state you live in, and the type of service. States must often expand their pharmacists’ scope of practice under the law to allow them to perform these services.  Services that integrate well with normal pharmacy workflow, such as walk-up immunizations, can usually be offered at all pharmacies. In contrast, services that require more time or a private room, like diabetes education, may only be available on an appointment basis at select pharmacies.

How do you believe COVID-19 will impact the pharmacy industry in the long-term?

While it may likely impact industry procurement and preparedness practices, I’m not sure that COVID-19 will significantly impact pharmacy practice. Many pharmacists already provide testing services, so using local pharmacists to administer COVID-19 testing is not necessarily a new concept. Pharmacy drive thru testing is a new concept and may be impactful on normal workflow during pandemics, but it should not present a practice challenge for pharmacists, especially when acting in a supervisory role for self-swab tests. In addition, when the COVID-19 vaccine is available, most pharmacies will already have the infrastructure in place to administer the immunizations. During the H1N1 pandemic of 2009, pharmacists learned how support the distribution and tracking of an allocated government-procured vaccine, build reporting mechanisms to account for administered doses and work with payers to secure reimbursement for the administration of the vaccine. I believe that this H1N1 experience, coupled with the expansion of provider seasonal and non-seasonal immunization services in subsequent years, has left pharmacists well prepared to assist in the mitigation of this pandemic when a vaccine becomes available. 


For more details on Community Cares Rx and other programs that provide cost savings on prescription medications, please visit www.paramountrx.com.

 

How to Safely Vacation During COVID-19

Did you know taking a vacation could actually help you live longer? For many Americans, summer vacation is a chance to relax, recharge and take a well-needed mental health break. As summer heats up, families are considering whether or not it’s safe to vacation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some tips to help you plan a safe and fun vacation this month:

  1. Plan your trip in advance

When choosing a destination, be sure to check travel restrictions, as well as state and local regulations. Remember to pack ample hand sanitizer, face masks and disinfectant wipes. Also, stock up on any prescription you may need while traveling. If you’re taking prescription drugs for common ailments like blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease, participating in a program like Community Cares Rx could help you save up to 70 percent off generic medications.

  1. Embrace the outdoors

With most indoor attractions closed, you’ll most likely be spending the majority of your time outdoors and away from crowds. Your options are endless when it comes to outdoor fun! Plan a hike followed by a picnic, relax on a secluded beach or cross a national landmark off your bucket list. No matter how you’re enjoying the great outdoors, The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a broad-spectrum, water resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. And don’t forget to reapply! Sunscreen should be applied at least every two hours, or more frequently when sweating or swimming.

  1. Mix it up with a staycation

If you’re still wary about traveling this summer, bring the vacation to you! With a little creativity, you can transform your home into the perfect summer oasis. While you’re enjoying your staycation, take the opportunity to unplug and disconnect from unnecessary stressors like email alerts. According to The Vision Council, roughly 65 percent of Americans suffer from digital eye strain. Even if you can’t completely avoid the internet, it’s a good idea to limit your screen time. Your brain will thank you for going off the grid for some much-needed recharging.

Whether you’re taking a road trip or enjoying a staycation this summer, a little preparation can help you save money and protect your health so you can relax and enjoy your time with loved ones. For more details on Community Cares Rx and other programs that provide cost savings on prescription medications, please visit www.communitycaresrx.com.