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Immunizations and College Gameday: A Collaboration of Opportunity for Pharmacy

By: Jordan Kelley, Rachel Strait, Andrew Smelser, Kelsey Stephens, Trey Warnock, Tia Collier BSPS and PharmD Candidates c/o 2017, University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy; email: [email protected]

Adult Vaccination Rates and Statistics

Mississippi is ranked the number one state regarding childhood vaccination rates due to a Mississippi state law stating that children are not exempt from vaccinations unless medically necessary. Most would agree that the highest ranking is beneficial to the herd immunity of our state.1 According to “The College of Physicians of Philadelphia,” the number of doctor visits decreases as patients age, and the number of people staying up-to-date on vaccinations is waning. Vaccinations need to be assessed yearly for each individual patient through examining his/her risk factors.2  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has specific recommendations for vaccinations in the adult population.3 The truth is that many patients are unaware of the recommendations and fail to keep up with the dates that they received specific vaccinations. Figure 1 shows that flu vaccination rates in both children and adults leave much room for improvement and pharmacists could have a significant impact in that area.

If morbidity and mortality from disease or illness can be prevented, healthcare providers’ are responsible to educate and evaluate patient for possible vaccinations. In Mississippi, pharmacists and registered student pharmacists are able to administer vaccinations to individuals of all ages in Mississippi under a protocol with a prescriber. For our state, the influenza vaccination rate is around 40.8%, while the highest rate in the United States is in Iowa at 54.7%. The adult vaccination rates have been increasing nationwide, due to the availability of pharmacists and advocacy of all healthcare providers.1 The Immunization Action Coalition has guidelines for adult vaccinations, as well as the CDC. All vaccinations are not recommended for adults but under specific circumstances they could help save a life.5

 Operation Immunization

Through Operation Immunization, the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy’s American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) Chapter set a goal to immunize a total of 500 people – 185 more from the previous year. We began our campaign in September, to coincide with the CDC influenza guidelines on when to get vaccinated.3 We teamed up with advisors, peers, faculty, and pharmacists to provide vaccine recommendations, vaccine schedules, and immunizations at various locations including Lyceum, Union, Grove Stage, Circle, Athletics Department, and the Pharmacy School. At each location, there were licensed pharmacists and at least five student pharmacists to help promote Operation Immunization.

 Pharmacy Students Have School Spirit

To promote the event, students advertised each event date throughout campus on bulletin boards, displayed campus TV promotion ads, and shared extensively on numerous social media outlets such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The Dean of Pharmacy, Dr. David Allen, helped to provide all student athletes with the influenza vaccine. Student pharmacists were able to immunize numerous members of various teams including football, basketball, baseball, soccer, track, tennis, rifle, band, and choir.  The students were proud of their success, but they were about to be given an opportunity to advocate for pharmacy nationwide and make Operation Immunization a legacy.

The 2014 Ole Miss Rebels achieved the most regular season wins since the 1969 team. Season tickets sold out in record time. Every facet of the team worked together as one, particularly the defense, which was number one in the nation in points allowed, giving the Rebels the opportunity to succeed during the season. As the fall progressed, so did the football success for Ole Miss. The first weekend in October not only marked the beginning of American Pharmacists Month, but it was also the first time ESPN’s College Gameday would be visiting The Grove. The Sunday before the Gameday crew was set to arrive in Oxford, the APhA–ASP Chapter Operation Gameday team met to develop the best immunization game plan on a 5-day period.

Chapter’s Game Plan

While the Rebels defense was impressive, student pharmacists were working on a defensive strategy to combat the upcoming flu season. The students developed a game plan, much like Head Coach Hugh Freeze did to overcome a #1 ranked Alabama football team. What most coaches and leaders know is that no matter how thorough a game plan is, sometimes the best “plays” come from unexpected situations. 
During Operation Immunization, the student pharmacists realized that it would be a remarkable opportunity to advocate for the profession of pharmacy through ESPN College Gameday. This was also an opportunity to combine pharmacy and sports, a collaboration rarely seen.  The chapter used social media to start a blitz and target the hosts of College Gameday in hopes of providing each of the hosts with their Influenza vaccination. 

Social Media Blitz

The social media blitz began on Monday morning, September 29th.  Student pharmacists sent out messages through every social media they could manage asking the hosts of College Gameday to let pharmacy students give them a flu shot. They targeted anything and everything College Gameday via Twitter and Facebook. As the week progressed, members of the College Gameday crew began to arrive and setup on campus. A group of students caught up with broadcaster Lee Corso to take a photo and promote American Pharmacists’ Month. With persistence and determination, the College Gameday staff, production assistants, and even more ESPN members received their flu shots at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy and on the College Gameday stage. The ultimate opportunity came when Chris Fowler, the host of College Gameday, asked to receive his flu shot from one of our very own student pharmacists. The student’s sign “Every Day is Gameday for Ole Miss Pharmacy” was featured on television helping to promote the profession of pharmacy during October, which is American Pharmacists Month.

A Week to Remember

      The success of Operation Immunization on the Ole Miss campus greatly exceeded the goals and objectives of the chapter. In one month, the chapter immunized over a thousand people on the University of Mississippi Oxford campus with the intent of helping to improve the health of the campus community. In addition to striving to promote a healthy campus through immunizations, the ambitious pharmacy students were able to counsel patients on additional vaccines and answer any questions regarding their medications and overall health.

From fellow students tying the hosts’ bowties for their first appearance on the College Gameday set, sleeping in the pharmacy building to ensure a spot on television, vaccinating one of the most recognized faces in college football, to taking down the #1 team in the nation, the Ole Miss student pharmacists had a unique opportunity to promote the profession of pharmacy in a national spotlight. Immunizations have been under scrutiny for years about their safety and effectiveness. It is up to pharmacists, as trusted health professionals, to educate and advocate.


  1. Blinder A. Mississippi, a Vaccination Leader, Stands by Its Strict Rules. 2015. Available at: Accessed June 1, 2015.
  2. Vaccines for Adults — History of Vaccines. 2015. Available at: Accessed June 1, 2015.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended Adult Immunization Schedule. 2015. Available at: Accessed June 1, 2015.
  4. Flu Vaccination Coverage, United States, 2012-13 Influenza Season | FluVaxView | Seasonal Influenza (Flu) | CDC. 2015. Available at: Accessed June 1, 2015.
  5. Immunization Action Coalition. Vaccinations for Adults: You’re never too old to get immunized!. 2015. Available at: Accessed June 1, 2015.

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