WASHINGTON — The National Association of Chain Drug Stores earlier this month told House subcommittees assessing the nation’s plans for distributing the H1N1 flu vaccine that the country’s drug stores can play a crucial role in ensuring that a maximum number of patients receive immunizations.
“Community pharmacies are uniquely capable of immunizing large numbers of people, thanks to their convenient locations, easy access during evenings and weekends, and specially trained pharmacists,” the association said in a written statement to a joint session of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittees on health and on oversight and investigations.
“The laws in all 50 states authorize pharmacists to administer vaccinations,” NACDS said. “There are more than 56,000 community pharmacies in every community in the country, with nearly 80,000 pharmacists qualified to administer vaccinations.”
During this fall’s influenza season, pharmacists are expected to administer more than 5 million seasonal flu vaccinations, NACDS pointed out.
The statement also noted that pharmacies across the country are playing an increasingly important role in keeping Americans healthy by providing oral antiviral medications and such ancillary health care supplies as hand sanitizers.
The nation’s drug stores began preparing for the outbreak of H1N1 flu early on, NACDS stressed. “During the summer, chain pharmacies began making plans to support public health H1N1 pandemic initiatives, specifically for administration of H1N1 vaccine and distribution of oral antiviral agents,” the statement said.
“Due to the large number of unknown variables in state and federal planning, collaboration with other provider groups, public health agencies and government officials was necessary to promote consistency and operational effectiveness.”
That collaboration, the association explained in its statement, resulted in the creation of “Operational Framework for Partnering With Pharmacies for Administration of 2009 H1N1 Vaccine,” a document published by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials to serve as a guide to state and territorial health officials.