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SOP Faculty Join Maryland’s COVID-19 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group

Group established by the Maryland Department of Health reviews COVID-19 vaccine trial data to determine how it should be applied to the state’s vaccine distribution plan.

Cherokee Layson-Wolf, PharmD, BCACP, FAPhA, and Deanna Tran, PharmD, BCACP

By Malissa Carroll
March 1, 2021

Cherokee Layson-Wolf, PharmD, BCACP, FAPhA, associate professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science (PPS) and associate dean for student affairs at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, and Deanna Tran, PharmD, BCACP, assistant professor in PPS at the School of Pharmacy, have been selected to serve on the state of Maryland’s SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group. Established by the Maryland Department of Health, the SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group is tasked with reviewing COVID-19 vaccine trial data and offering guidance about how that data can be applied to the state’s vaccine distribution plan.

The SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group includes pharmacists, physicians, nurses, social workers, and other public health professionals.

“As one of the most accessible health care professionals, pharmacists regularly demonstrate the critical role our profession plays in ensuring that patients have access to all of the tools they need to stay healthy, including certain vaccinations,” says Jill A. Morgan, PharmD, BCPS, BCPPS, professor and chair of PPS. “We are thrilled to have Drs. Layson-Wolf and Tran representing the School of Pharmacy on the state of Maryland’s SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group. Their participation will allow them to share the pharmacist’s perspective as COVID-19 vaccine providers and help shape the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan to ensure that it plays to the strengths that each profession brings to the table.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has currently authorized two COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use: the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine and the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine. The SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group meets regularly to review data for both vaccines, as well as discuss best practices for educating and communicating with the public about the vaccines. Members offer insight on which populations should be included in vaccine priority groups, provide guidance to ensure that vaccines are distributed equitably across the state, and develop messaging to help communicate information about available vaccines to local communities.

“As pharmacists, Dr. Tran and I not only offer guidance to the group on what practices would best assist us in educating our patients and colleagues about the vaccines, but also share information that has been communicated to us by both our patients and colleagues,” says Layson-Wolf. “Because pharmacists are one of the providers of the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s important that we be involved in the conversation to help shed light on any challenges or barriers that might prevent us from being able to fully respond to our patients’ health care needs.”

Tran adds, “As a pharmacist who has practiced in both a community pharmacy and an ambulatory care clinic, I have had the opportunity to interact with some of our most underrepresented and vulnerable patient populations. I’m excited to be able to share the lessons that I have learned from working with these populations to help ensure that our vaccine distribution plan is inclusive of these individuals and the unique challenges they face.”

The state of Maryland is currently in Phase 1C of its COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, which has expanded vaccine availability to all adults ages 65-74 and essential workers in lab services, agriculture, manufacturing, and the postal service. As the state prepares to enter Phase 2 and Phase 3 of its vaccine distribution plan, Layson-Wolf and Tran see their involvement in the SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group as an opportunity to both collaborate with health care professionals from other fields and further advocate for the critical work being done by pharmacists in educating others about and administering the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Participating in the SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group allows us to advocate at a higher level for pharmacists, student pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians, and the important role we play in immunization delivery,” says Layson-Wolf. “It is wonderful to share and hear different perspectives, as well as discuss ways that we as health care professionals can work together across all professions to tackle the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. We all understand the common goal is to overcome COVID-19, and we can only do that when we collaborate and communicate.”

“We need all health care professionals — their varied backgrounds, experiences, and expertise — to help us reach as many patients as possible to increase vaccination rates and significantly reduce COVID-19 complications and deaths,” adds Tran. “I’m incredibly grateful and excited to be a part of this group and to work together with experts from all different backgrounds on this critical public health project.”

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