ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The fastest and surest way to immunize millions of Americans against COVID-19 is to enlist local pharmacists who see more patients per year than primary physicians, a group of national pharmacy organizations told the National Governors Association today.
“To realize the positive outcomes hoped for, all community-based pharmacists and pharmacies must be part of the solution. It would be a mistake for state and local public health departments to contract solely with certain national chains to distribute vaccines via pharmacies, leaving at-risk patients in rural and urban areas, especially underserved communities, without sufficient access,” said the group, composed of the American Pharmacists Association, the National Community Pharmacists Association, and the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations.
In a joint letter the groups urged governors to take three specific actions to include community pharmacists in their plans for mass vaccinations:
- Grant pharmacists immunization authority for all FDA approved or authorized, or ACIP recommended, COVID-19 vaccines to patients 3 years and older;
- Provide liability protections, as is provided to other providers, to pharmacists; and
- Add pharmacists as other licensed providers or non-physician providers in Medicaid to ensure pharmacists can provide vaccines for this vulnerable population
“Pharmacists have more contact with patients than any other health care provider, and that’s especially true in underserved communities where there are often no other alternatives,” said B. Douglas Hoey, pharmacist, MBA, CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association. “The best way to scale up the distribution of vaccines and get this pandemic behind us is to rely on local pharmacists.”
Using all willing and able pharmacies greatly expands capacity and access for the public, said Scott Knoer, EVP/CEO of the American Pharmacists Association.
“At a time of increased vaccine hesitancy, maintaining and supporting established patient-pharmacist relationships for these vital preventive services is critical. Pharmacists are integral and accessible members of the immunization neighborhood.”
Rebecca Snead, who heads the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations, said local pharmacists are the most accessible – and in many parts of the country, the only – health care providers.
“Americans trust their local pharmacists,” said Snead. “That’s vitally important because we’re asking Americans to take a new vaccine about which there will be many questions. Local pharmacists are in a good position to educate their patients and provide available information.”