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Mariava Phillips
April 26, 2023

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) Foundation awarded the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy a $250,000 research grant. The grant will help fund the research project entitled, “Evaluating Access to Childhood Vaccines Through Rural Community Pharmacies.”   

Through this project, UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy researchers will work with pharmacy partners to help ensure children in rural North Carolina communities have access to vaccinations. 

“We were seeking forward-thinking, community-centered projects that would explore creative solutions to some of the most pressing public health problems facing diverse and underserved communities across the U.S.,” said NACDS Foundation President Sara Roszak. 

This project aims to estimate the health and economic outcomes associated with community pharmacy administration of COVID-19 vaccines to children in rural North Carolina and to assess the successes and challenges that community pharmacies have faced in administering all childhood vaccines to rural populations. 

“Through this work, we can contribute to the U.S. Healthy People 2030 health goals to prevent infectious diseases and target rural populations who face reduced access to health care and greater levels of poverty,” said Sachiko Ozawa, Ph.D., M.H.S., the project’s primary investigator and associate professor in the Division of Practice Advancement and Clinical Education (PACE). 

Rural residents in America face greater barriers to accessing health care, including vaccinations. According to UNC Scheps Center for Health Services Research, 183 rural hospitals have closed in the U.S. since 2005. However, community pharmacies can improve vaccination access and coverage. A study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy showed that pharmacists are one of the most accessible health care professionals to the public with 90% of Americans living within five miles of a community pharmacy. 

The research team, which also includes co-investigators Macary Marciniak ‘00, Pharm.D., associate professor in PACE and Amanda Savage ‘03, Pharm.D., assistant professor in PACE, will partner with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Harris Teeter pharmacies and independent chain Moose Pharmacy.  

“Findings from this project would be beneficial to strengthen access to vaccinations, advance public health, and foster equity in vaccination delivery,” said Ozawa. 

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