The novel coronavirus disease outbreak, widely known as COVID-19 was first recorded in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019. This disease was declared a public emergency of international concern on 30th, January 2020. It has now been confirmed in more than 180 countries.
So far, more than four million cases had been reported which has claimed more than three hundred thousand lives in the world according to the Centre for Disease and Control (CDC). The declaration was aimed at advising the world on measures to be taken in enhancing global health security to prevent international transmission of this infectious hazard. Healthcare institutions are key to reducing mortality among those who become afflicted, thus, there is a need to ease the burden on overstretched healthcare institutions. Since COVID-19 has a higher transmission rate than influenza, SARS, and MERS, ‘social distancing’ measures are being encouraged to slow the spread of the outbreak due to the absence of a vaccine to prevent mass transmission and reduce morbidity.
The pharmaceutical practice has evolved over time from a focus on the distribution of medications and counseling of patients on the appropriate use and administration of medications to a more clinical role in the provision of patient-centered health care including medication management, health education, disease prevention, and the overall improvement of public health.
This undoubtedly reflects the primary mission of the profession in the COVID-19 response. Globally, Pharmacists and pharmaceutical professionals are considered essential personnel in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, therefore they tend to be predisposed to the disease as they are on the frontline providing health services to the populace. With many countries in the world on lockdown, there is a greater dependence on pharmacies and Pharmacists as the first point of contact to fulfill the public’s healthcare needs.
Therefore, pharmaceutical professionals have a shared responsibility to provide essential services, ensure uninterrupted care, provide reliable and evidence-based information, and promote infection control. The roles for pharmaceutical professionals in emergency preparedness are manifold and include procuring and securing essential medications and supplies, educating the public, promoting infection control and disinfection behaviors, and most of all, continuing to provide services to their communities while upholding ethical values and integrity of professional standards.
Furthermore, community Pharmacists and their teams are a vital healthcare provider during the outbreak; they remain on the frontline of public health by serving as direct points of access for their patients. They provide essential services to patients and healthcare teams through continued provision and supply of medicines and treatment.
Pharmacies continue to stay open and, in some areas, provide extended hours and services. Pharmacy professionals are also facing huge challenges in COVID-19 response which includes inadequate risk training, lack of adequate supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), high risk of hazard exposure inherent in healthcare professions, legislative hurdles resulting in lack of provider status and related reimbursements.
Finally, Pharmacists especially community Pharmacists and Hospital Pharmacists must continue to intensify the social distancing practices being observed since the pandemic and strictly adhere to the World Health Organisation (WHO) precautionary measures. They must adorn appropriate protective gear and practices and interrogate patients who come into these premises extensively to identify those with the symptoms of COVID-19 and therefore, be referred appropriately.
This will make pharmacies important resource information centres. More so, all interventions and interactions must be documented properly in line with the principles of pharmaceutical care and to protect against wrongful accusations or insinuations. The government also needs to broaden its concept of healthcare facilities to include pharmacies and accept Pharmacists are on the frontline and be more inclined towards Research and Development.
Pharmacists’ heroic efforts have kept the pharmaceutical supply chain open during these difficult times while working cooperatively with other healthcare professions to confront this pandemic but the challenges ahead may test their resolve and strength in fighting the pandemic. As such, Pharmacists must remain steadfast in their professional response while equally seeking divine intervention.
The views and opinions expressed in this opinion article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Eastern Herald.