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Pharmacists' role in flu preparedness highlighted
February 15th, 2013
ARLINGTON, Va. – The National Association of Chain Drug Stores has submitted a statement to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations that spotlights community pharmacy's increased role administering flu vaccinations.
NACDS said Thursday that its statement was provided for a subcommittee hearing titled "Influenza: Perspective on Current Season and Update on Preparedness."
In its remarks, NACDS noted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recognition of community pharmacy in helping to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and boost the nation's immunization rate.
"According to data collected by CDC, pharmacists have been instrumental in increasing the vaccination rate in the United States. In fact, the CDC has specifically asked the pharmacy community for its continued support and efforts to help address vaccination needs in their local communities," NACDS said in its statement.
During the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, the government called on community pharmacy to help in vaccinating Americans to curb the spread of the disease, and since then more and more consumers are getting immunized for flu, shingles and other diseases from pharmacists, NACDS pointed out. Currently, pharmacists can vaccinate for flu in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The CDC reported that in 2010-11, nearly 20% of Americans got their flu shot from a pharmacy.
NACDS also noted in its statement that pharmacists' ability to expand their scope of practice to provide more immunizations is limited in many states because of state laws and age restrictions for patients.
"Pharmacists should be allowed to practice to the maximum of their capabilities, partnering with other health care providers in coordinated efforts to decrease the number of undervaccinated Americans. Laws and regulations that limit the ability of pharmacists to administer vaccinations should be amended to enable pharmacists to make a broader impact on vaccination rates,” NACDS said in its statement.
The association, too, stated that extending pharmacists' vaccination authority can help rein in medical costs for consumers, health insurers and other third-party payors, including Medicare and Medicaid.
"As noted by the Department of Defense in a 2011 final rule expanding the portfolio of vaccines that Tricare beneficiaries may obtain from community pharmacies, significant savings [$1.8 million] were achieved under the Tricare program when the program was first implemented to allow beneficiaries to obtain flu and pneumococcal vaccines from retail pharmacies," NACDS said in its statement.
Supporting the notion to give pharmacists wider lattitude in immunizations is their high level of education and training. NACDS noted that pharmacists are highly skilled health care professionals, with pharmacy students today graduating from a minimum six-year program with a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D) degree.
"It is the goal of all pharmacy schools to prepare pharmacists who can assume expanded responsibilities in the care of patients and assure the provision of rational drug therapy," NACDS stated.
"Considering the improvements in public health and the health care savings that one can expect to achieve through expanding the authority of pharmacists to administer immunizations, any influenza preparedness strategy should maximize the potential of pharmacists to provide important immunization services to more Americans and to practice up to their full capability."