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Ontario asks pharmacists to administer more vaccines

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TORONTO — Continuing to expand pharmacies’ health care role, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care will enable pharmacists to administer vaccines for 13 diseases in addition to seasonal influenza.

Starting December 15, Ontario pharmacists can provide vaccinations for shingles (herpes zoster), chicken pox (varicella), hepatitis A and B, human papillomavirus (HPV), haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib), pneumococcal disease, meningococcal disease, rabies, typhoid, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and tuberculosis (BCG).

immunization_shoppers-drug-martThese vaccines, which include common travel immunizations, can be administered in participating pharmacies to people age 5 and older. Ontario pharmacists have been administering flu shots free since the ministry granted them that authority in October 2012.

“Pharmacists across the province play an important role in helping Ontarians stay healthy through immunization. Thanks to their success providing people the flu shot, we are now inviting them to deliver additional vaccines. This is another way our government is making it easier for people to access the services they need,” Ontario Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins stated.

When pharmacist-provided flu shots first became permitted in the 2012-2013 flu season, more than 250,000 Ontarians received a flu vaccination that way, reported Shoppers Drug Mart, Canada’s largest drug chain. In the most recent flu season, 2014-2015, that number more than tripled to about 764,000 people.

“We applaud the Ontario government for recognizing the value pharmacists bring by allowing them to administer these vaccinations,” stated Jeff Leger, executive vice president of pharmacy and health care at Shoppers Drug Mart. “Flu vaccination rates have increased in the province since pharmacists have been able to immunize. Allowing them to administer additional vaccines in the future is an important next step in helping to protect Ontarians’ health both here and abroad.”

Pharmacies’ accessibility, including many locations and extended hours, offer patients a convenient option to doctors’ offices, health clinics and travel clinics, pharmacy groups noted.

“Governments, public health agencies and ultimately patients will benefit from further integrating pharmacists and pharmacies in the delivery of Ontario’s health care services,” commented Justin Bates, chief executive officer of the Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada.

Patients are being encouraged to speak to a pharmacist or primary care provider to find out which vaccines they can receive directly at a pharmacy. Not all immunizations require a prescription, and in some cases patients will be able to consult directly with a pharmacist and get the vaccine at their pharmacy.

“For the past four years, Ontarians have trusted pharmacists to administer their flu shots. By enabling pharmacists to provide a wider number of vaccines, and broadening pharmacists’ scope of practice, we can further contribute to a sustainable health care system and help drive increased vaccination rates, while helping patients manage this important area of their health,” stated Ontario Pharmacists Association CEO Dennis Darby.

Most of the vaccines covered in the ministry’s announcement aren’t publicly funded, “meaning that patients will need to pay for both the product and its administration, whether they are vaccinated at the pharmacy or at a doctor’s office or clinic,” noted Sean Simpson, Ontario Pharmacists Association chairman. “There is still more opportunity for pharmacists to have a positive impact on patient health and provincial vaccination programs. We look forward to continuing our work with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to further expand the list of vaccines offered at pharmacies to include those that are publicly funded,” he added.


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