The Pharmacy Benefit

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Summary

Many Americans have expressed strong reservations about vaccines in general and a COVID-19 vaccine in particular, and remain unsure about whether to be vaccinated against the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). In this episode, guest host Claire Wulf Winiarek speaks with Janet McUlsky, convener of the COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project, and Susan Winckler, a former Chief of Staff to the FDA Commissioner and current CEO of the Reagan-Udall Foundation for the FDA, about these concerns and the potential messages and messengers that may help improve understanding.

Show Notes

Many Americans have expressed strong reservations about vaccines in general and a COVID-19 vaccine in particular, and remain unsure about whether to be vaccinated against the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). In this episode, guest host ClaireWulf Winiarek speaks with Janet McUlsky, convener of the COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project, and Susan Winckler, a former Chief of Staff to the FDA Commissioner and current CEO of the Reagan-Udall Foundation for the FDA, about these concerns and the potential messages and messengers that may help improve understanding. Only by meeting individuals where they are, and with empathy, can we promote equity and trust in the vaccines and support informed decision-making regarding whether to be vaccinated—particularly among communities of color.

To learn more about the important work underway by the COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project, or to join the initiative, visit covidvaccineproject.org. Findings from the COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence Project, led by the Reagan-Udall Foundation for the FDA, are at covid19.reaganudall.org.

A Historic Effort and Collaboration. Susan discusses that the vaccine was able to move along quickly due to significant collaboration and large numbers of people who were eligible for clinical trials. To ensure the vaccine could be distributed as soon as possible, manufacturers continued working on it at risk while they were under regulatory review so it could be distributed as soon as it was authorized. FDA staff members reviewed regulatory packages of the vaccine to move authorization along as quickly as possible. Janet shares that the thorough oversight and monitoring by the FDA, researchers, and physicians helped ensure the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine even though the process was much quicker.  Previous pandemics and other infectious threats in the last decade also resulted in more research that allowed manufacturers to advance the vaccine more quickly in the COVID-19 pandemic. 
 
Handling Vaccine Skepticism. Janet and Susan agree that to distribute the vaccine to more individuals, it will take conversation and dialogue over dismissiveness to answer the questions of those hesitant to receive it. Much of the hesitance comes from marginalized communities due to racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare. It’s necessary to invite questions to discuss how the vaccine was developed so quickly, who authorized the vaccines, and how the clinical trials were diverse across race, ethnicity, and age to make sure the vaccine works for everyone.
 
Distributing Vaccine Information. Trusted messengers are necessary in both listening to concerns and responding thoughtfully. Local healthcare professionals are credible messengers to answer questions in one-on-one conversations. Janet shares that the COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity project provides discussion guides for people to talk among various groups about the data behind the vaccine to ensure no shortcuts were taken, especially among marginalized groups and those with prior health conditions. Personal conversations can answer why the “risk-benefit” weighs on the side of getting the vaccination.
 
All Hands On Deck. The private sector is helping employers by passing around data and information to help people feel calm and confident that the vaccine is safe and effective. Susan adds that it’s necessary to give health professionals the right information as they tend to be the de facto health experts in their social circles. Health professionals should be prepared with answers and resources to welcome questions and provide accurate answers. 
 
COVID-19 Vaccine Discussion Guide.
 
You can subscribe to The Pharmacy Benefit on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, and all other major platforms.
 

What is The Pharmacy Benefit?

JC Scott, President & CEO of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, discusses the latest trends, public policy developments, and political challenges impacting drug pricing and healthcare.

You'll hear the nation's top thought leaders, policy experts, and political analysts on topics like how employers, unions, and others use Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) to drive value for their members in the face of growing healthcare costs. You'll also learn about advancements in gene therapy, biologics, other cutting edge therapies, and the patient benefits and cost challenges that come with them.

The Pharmacy Benefit will also analyze the latest news from inside the industry and give you an educated perspective on where things currently stand and where we think they're headed.