I'm going to start this post with a disclaimer to ensure that you don't misinterpret what I'm saying. I am commenting on pharmacy technicians that are bad at their job. I am not saying all pharmacy techs are bad at their job, in fact, I'm sure many are very well trained and professional.
The other day I went to a local chain pharmacy. I want to tell you the name of this chain, but I'm too poor to afford council if they decide to take legal action. I went to the pharmacy to fill a prescription for a couple of vaccines. Normally, when you fill a prescription for medication, the pharmacist gives you the drugs, explains how to take them and any possible side effects or drug interactions. With vaccines, however, it seems that the pharmacy tech is deemed competent enough to sell the vaccines to the client without pharmacist assistance.
This particular pharmacy tech brought me the vaccines from the back of the pharmacy. She then billed me over $100 for the vaccines. I asked her why the bill was so high because I have a fairly good extended health plan so I was surprised the vaccines weren't covered. She explained that many insurance plans do not cover the cost of vaccines and that my insurance "probably" didn't cover them either. I insisted she double check and it turned out that she was wrong. This pharmacy tech should have done her due diligence and investigated whether my insurance covered vaccines instead of assuming it didn't, but if this was her only mistake I wouldn't have any grievance with her.
After she adjusted the price, I paid and she said goodbye. Being a medical student I knew that some vaccines need to be refrigerated if they aren't being administered immediately, so I asked her if I needed to refrigerate these vaccines. She confirmed that they did need to be stored in a fridge. What if I didn't know that some vaccines needed to be refrigerated? I don't think that vaccine storage procedure are common knowledge, are they!? What kind of training did this pharmacy tech have? She shouldn't be assuming that I have up to date knowledge about vaccine storage; in fact, she shouldn't assume I know anything. Even if I had told her I was a med student, which I didn't, even then she shouldn't assume I know a thing about vaccine storage! We aren't taught that kind of thing in class, at least not in first year.
My final problem with this pharmacy tech occurred when I asked her if I had to wait two weeks before the vaccine's protective effect was active. I asked because I remembered from class that the adaptive immune response takes about two weeks to develop memory cells to specific infectious agents, but I wanted to double check that this was also true for the adaptive immune response to vaccines. The pharmacy tech said that she didn't know. Now, if you are going to give me a vaccine, you should probably know how it works. Maybe knowing about vaccine activation delays isn't part of a pharmacy tech's job description, but if that is the case, they shouldn't be the ones giving the vaccines to the customer. I feel the onus is on the person selling the vaccine to tell the customer pertinent information regarding its storage, activity, and any other information that may affect the customers health. To make matters worse, the pharmacy tech, after saying that she didn't know about the activation delay, didn't even bother to ask the pharmacist. She just walked away. I had to insist she find the information for me.
The situation I went through was only a small hassle, but the problem is that I wasn't given important information. Since I've been taught about vaccines, I was able to ask the right questions, but what happens to the customer who doesn't have a background in health care? I'm not sure if this was a case of poor training or an irresponsible employee...either way, it's a problem.