Today’s pharmacists are key to fighting the spread of infectious disease, administering vaccines for everything from COVID-19 to shingles. College of Pharmacy assistant professor Tessa Hastings is on a mission to improve how they do that.
Research focus. Hastings is particularly interested in implementation science: how pharmacies can change their workflows to enhance immunization services in rural communities. Answering that question means identifying the factors that stand in pharmacists’ way — things like time constraints, inadequate reimbursement or patient misperceptions — and developing strategies to overcome them.
Notable achievements. Since arriving at USC in 2019, she has published 20 peer-reviewed journal articles and has brought in research funding from big names such as the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the American Cancer Society.
Minding the gaps. While pharmacists have administered seasonal and routine vaccines for years, they have proved vital during the pandemic, administering more than 250 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine through community pharmacies nationwide. Despite this success, there are still many missed opportunities. Hastings’ team has found that while most South Carolina pharmacists document administered vaccines in SIMON — the state’s immunization information system — fewer than half check the patient’s immunization history in SIMON first. Increasing this figure will help pharmacists make recommendations when patients are due for vaccines, thereby reducing missed opportunities and improving health outcomes statewide.
Looking ahead. One of Hastings’ biggest goals is to increase vaccination rates among children in South Carolina, only two-thirds of whom have received the full course of recommended vaccines by age two. Her previous research has found that workflow interventions in pharmacies can increase the number of vaccines administered to adults.
“My future work will build on these findings to develop and evaluate multi-component interventions and training programs to improve pharmacists’ pediatric vaccination knowledge, confidence and vaccine doses administered, with a long-term goal of improving access to and acceptance of vaccines among children and adolescents. As a mom, I’ve ensured my son is up-to-date and protected against vaccine-preventable diseases, and I want to make sure that all kids in South Carolina have that same chance.”