Updated March 30 at 6:25pm
life sciences

URI professor lands $703K from Pfizer for vaccine project


SOUTH KINGSTOWN – University of Rhode Island Professor Kerry L. LaPlante has been awarded a $703,000 grant from the Pfizer Medical Education Group.

The associate professor of pharmacy was awarded the $703,000, 2.5-year grant to help “boost the pneumonia vaccination rate among Rhode Islanders older than 65 and those with compromised immune systems,” according to a release from the University.

LaPlante was one of only two applicants, from 70 nationwide, to receive such a grant from the Pfizer group. “Pfizer Medical Education Group liked the idea that we will be able to have an impact on the entire state,” LaPlante, whose specialties are infectious disease and drug resistant bacteria, said in prepared remarks.

The program’s goal is to increase the vaccination rate from 71.7 percent to 90 percent, according to LaPlante, who said the initiative was especially important for Rhode Island due to an increase in the state’s incidence of pneumonia.

From 2007 to 2010, the incidence of invasive pnemococcal disease (pneumonia) in Rhode Island rose from 9.1 per 100,000 individuals to 11.9 per 100,000 individuals. According to URI, the state’s 2010 rate was also higher than the national rate of 8.8 per 100,000 individuals.

“This was a highly competitive grant process and I congratulate Professor LaPlante and the URI College of Pharmacy on its success,” Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee said in prepared remarks. “I was proud to support Professor LaPlante’s application because this valuable funding will ultimately help us achieve a healthier state – and that is a goal we all share.”

According to URI, the grant has four key components: education, coordination, communication and outcomes.

“Our education outreach will include one-on-one meetings with community pharmacists, primary care physicians and other providers, including free clinics, clinics that serve diverse populations and ambulatory settings,” LaPlante said in a statement.

Working with LaPlante on the grant – “Addressing Educational and Coordination Barriers for Adult Pneumococcal Disease Prevention in Rhode Island” – are eight URI pharmacy professors and the R.I. Department of Health. The professors on the team include: Jeffrey Bratberg, Aisling Caffrey, Brett Feret, Stephen Kogut, Virginia Lemay, K. Kelly Orr, Michelle Thomas and Kristina Ward.

“The team will focus on the elderly, smokers and underserved racially, ethnically and linguistically diverse communities,” said LaPlante. “We want to improve coordination of care between health care practitioners as it relates to the vaccine.”

The teams plans to distribute wallet cards, template letters and vaccination reminder postcards to pharmacies for their patients to “coordinate care and foster communication” with primary care providers, said the URI release, adding that the project also calls for 30-second public service radio announcements that will convey the importance of vaccinations among adults 65-and-older and smokers.

To measure the effectiveness of the project, the team plans to assess the change in incidence of pneumonia between the beginning and end of the project as well as evaluate the impact of the project on hospital admissions for pneumonia throughout the state of Rhode Island.

Results will be published and will include a step-by-step guide detailing each phase, as well as lessons learned throughout the project, said URI.


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