In response to the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, public health officials in Palm Beach County, Florida, had to get thousands of vaccine doses out to the community as quickly as possible. But they knew they could not do it alone. So they reached out to new partners who came with familiar faces and trusted reputations: local pharmacists.

“They were a reliable source, a convenient source and they’d be able to increase uptake of the vaccine,” said Jillian Janicki, MPH, assistant coordinator for the Cities Readiness Initiative at the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County. “It was an invaluable partnership. The pharmacy is that one-on-one contact that people don’t always get with the health department.”

During the H1N1 pandemic, Janicki and her colleagues reached out to all the major community pharmacies on administering the flu vaccine and educating patients on flu prevention. Overall, health officials supplied more than 200,000 educational Flu Ready Cards in 250 local pharmacies, and about 40,000 doses of H1N1 flu vaccine were distributed to local pharmacies and retail health clinics. Pharmacists also joined the county’s Healthcare Emergency Response Coalition, offering expertise on how the local response system could leverage pharmacies during emergencies. The first-time partnership was such a success that it continues today, with pharmacists participating in local emergency planning and exercises.

To continue reading this story from the October 2014 issue of The Nation’s Health, visit the newspaper online.