As the Covid vaccination campaign ramps up — locally and worldwide — somebody is going to have to give out all of those shots.

Duquesne University’s highly regarded School of Pharmacy is attempting to help fill this void, as fast as possible, with a unique online vaccination certification course.

“Pharmacists were telling us that they had trouble finding any place that was offering the certification,” says Dr. Tiffany Hatcher, assistant professor of pharmacy at Duquesne. “We also saw an increasing number of hospital and health center pharmacists, who are not usually responsible for vaccinations, ask for it. We were one of the only schools offering this training.”

Since the summer, they’ve trained more than 200 pharmacists (locally and nationally) through the American Pharmacist Association Pharmacy-Based Immunization Delivery program, largely done online. More than 400 Duquesne pharmacy students have also received the training and are eligible to deliver the vaccine.

“For our last course, we had individuals from Alaska, from California, from all over the nation, joining in with us for that eight hours,” says Hatcher. “So it’s a really neat networking opportunity because we spend time talking to one another, understanding each other’s backgrounds and workspaces.”

They even had a woman registered to take the course from Saudi Arabia this week. It involves 12 hours of independent study, combined with an eight-hour, live online course (admittedly quite grueling). Then there’s the injection requirement. Students can come in and practice on one another. People completing the course remotely need to get assistance with the step.

Duquesne students practicing immunization. Photo courtesy of Duquense University.

“For instance, if I’m a pharmacist in Alaska seeking this training, I sit through my eight hours of Zoom,” says Hatcher. “Once I’ve completed that, I need to find somebody in my local community who is trained to provide immunizations. And I can reach out to that person and ask them if they would be willing to coach me in doing three practice injections. That’s how people have been able to get that hands-on training wherever they’re located. And then for reference, we have them submit a video of their three practice injections. I personally review that video and I provide feedback.”

Duquesne University is ranked third in research funding among private pharmacy schools by the National Institutes of Health. Students have a 98.4% pass rate for the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination Exam (NAPLEX).