WASHINGTON — The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) this month authorized pharmacists to order and administer COVID-19 vaccination, a move welcomed by pharmacy advocates.
“This is an extremely important decision by the administration,” said National Association of Chain Drug Stores president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson. “When safe and effective COVID-19 vaccinations are available, it will be essential to have pharmacies and pharmacists prepared to be ‘ready, set, go.’ ”
“NACDS has emphasized that America’s pharmacies present patients and the nation with an efficient, effective and essential component of vaccine deployment,” he added. “There is a community pharmacy within five miles of 90% of Americans.”
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that including pharmacies in a pandemic vaccination model can help vaccinate 80% of the population seven weeks faster, Anderson noted. “In the best interest of public health, it will be essential for this decision to be recognized by all as a clear runway, without further barriers, so pharmacies and pharmacists can prepare completely to administer COVID-19 vaccinations,” he said.
National Community Pharmacists Association CEO B. Douglas Hoey said, “The country needs pharmacists to be a major player in the administration of coronavirus vaccines. NCPA appreciates steps the Trump administration is taking to make sure that pharmacies can administer these immunizations when they come to market. As with coronavirus testing, ensuring access to vaccines in community pharmacies rather than solely in national chains will be critical if NCPA members are to help Operation Warp Speed meet its goal of administering 300 million doses nationwide. Independent pharmacy is ready and eager to partner in the administration of the vaccines.”
HHS took the action under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act to expand access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines when they are made available.
“This action builds upon our administration’s progress toward delivering a safe, effective and widely available vaccine by 2021,” said assistant secretary for health Dr. Brett Giroir. “Allowing pharmacists to order and administer COVID-19 vaccines will greatly expand convenient access for the American people.”
To be allowed to administer the vaccines to people 3 years old or older, state-licensed pharmacists and pharmacy interns licensed or registered by their state board of pharmacy must satisfy requirements including the following:
• The vaccine must be authorized by the Food and Drug Administration or FDA-licensed.
• The vaccination must be ordered and administered according to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) COVID-19 recommendation.
• The pharmacist must complete a practical training program of at least 20 hours approved by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). The training must include hands-on injection technique, clinical evaluation of indications and contraindications of vaccines, and the recognition and treatment of emergency reactions to vaccines.
• The licensed or registered pharmacy intern must complete a training program approved by the ACPE.
• The pharmacist or intern must have a current certificate in basic CPR.
The authorization preempts any state and local laws that prohibit those who satisfy these requirements from ordering or administering COVID-19 vaccines. It does not preempt state and local laws that permit additional individuals to administer COVID-19 vaccines to additional persons.