AHRQ guide helps with vaccine, drug dispensing

A new planning guide funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) is designed to help communities make sure they have needed drugs and vaccines in the event of a natural epidemic or bioterrorist attack.

The guide, Community-Based Mass Prophylaxis: A Planning Guide for Public Health Preparedness, complements the Strategic National Stockpile guidebook prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which includes a chapter on dispensing medications and vaccines. It was developed by researchers in the Department of Public Health at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and New York-Presbyterian Hospital, led by Nathaniel Hupert, MD, MPH.

The guide does the following:

  • provides a framework for understanding the components of epidemic outbreak response (surveillance, stockpiling, distribution, dispensing, and follow-up care) and the planning and conduct of dispensing operations using specially designated dispensing clinics;
  • applies these concepts to develop model pill-dispensing and vaccination clinics run on the Bioterrorism and Epidemic Outbreak Model (BERM), a computer staffing model that can be customized to meet local community needs;
  • discusses implementation of a command and control framework for dispensing clinics based on the CDC’s National Incident Management System.

"We need such a plan for both natural — and human-perpetrated — disasters," says Anthony Joseph, MD, FACEP, president and CEO of AMC Registry, a health care process improvement company in Columbus, OH. "Vaccination works, and it is relatively simple — with some side effects to consider. Antibiotics work as well." (Industry sources say that while for some diseases, vaccination is an appropriate and relatively simple intervention, for others only antibiotics are available).

"It only makes sense that the emergency physician assume a central role in this work," notes Joseph, adding that the activity of planning ahead, educating, and drilling is much needed, and that he endorses the new AHRQ guide. "It also makes sense that health care and public health professionals plan ahead, vaccinate where appropriate, and prepare programs to administer antibiotics, should they be the appropriate form of treatment, before the disaster hits," he advises.

Community-Based Mass Prophylaxis: A Planning Guide for Public Health Preparedness can be accessed free at www.ahrq.gov/research/cbmprophyl/cbmpro.htm. If you are interested in printed copies, one copy per organization is available free (with no shipping or mailing costs) by contacting AHRQ’s Publications Clearinghouse at (800) 358-9295 or by sending an e-mail to ahrqpubs@ahrq.gov.

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For more information on the new guide, contact: