ARLINGTON, Va. — Continuing proactive engagement with the nation’s governors and state executive teams that has remained a priority throughout the pandemic, NACDS this week urged states to take actions that will help ensure patients have ready access to vaccines from their trusted pharmacies and pharmacists.
NACDS is urging states to act in response to the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) decision last week to authorize pharmacists to order and administer, and pharmacy interns to administer, vaccines to individuals ages 3 to 18 years, subject to certain requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In making the announcement last week, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the action “means easier access to lifesaving vaccines for our children, as we seek to ensure immunization rates remain high during the COVID-19 pandemic.” HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Brett P. Giroir, M.D. said, “As a pediatric critical care physician who has treated critically ill children suffering from vaccine preventable diseases, I know first-hand the devastation to the child – and to the family and community – of a death or severe brain damage that could have been avoided by a safe and effective vaccine.”
NACDS president and CEO Steven Anderson wrote to the governors and their executive teams, “HHS’ action is clear in paving the way for pharmacists and pharmacy interns to provide vaccines to children. Yet, in providing utmost clarity, NACDS strongly urges your state to affirm that by operating under the HHS declaration, pharmacists are not in violation of your state’s pharmacy laws or regulations.”
In one example among others of states’ efforts to ensure vaccination access at this crucial time, the North Carolina Board of Pharmacy issued guidance last week to affirm HHS’ action, saying “a North Carolina immunizing pharmacist who orders and administers pediatric vaccines in compliance with DHHS’ declaration during the federally-declared COVID-19 public health emergency shall not be deemed by the Board of Pharmacy to be in violation of the North Carolina Pharmacy Practice Act.”
In its communication, NACDS urged additional vaccination-related actions that are crucial for public health. NACDS urged states to remove any remaining barriers that prevent pharmacists and pharmacy interns from providing flu and other vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; to ensure preparedness for pharmacist-provided COVID-19 vaccinations; and to sustain policies put into place during the pandemic that allow pharmacies to take the operational steps necessary to best serve their patients and communities.
More information about NACDS’ perspective on vaccinations during this public health emergency can be found in an op-ed published by Morning Consult.