HHS Announces Pharmacists Can Administer Childhood Vaccines During COVID
In an unprecedented threat to the health of our nation amid the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. health officials have moved to expand access to vaccines that prevent life-threatening diseases.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act), has expanded access to pharmacists in all 50 states to administer childhood vaccines. The amendment is aimed at preventing future outbreaks of measles and other life-threatening, preventable diseases.
Secretary Alex Azar explained that “…today’s action means easier access to lifesaving vaccines for our children, as we seek to ensure immunization rates remain high during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
By allowing state-licensed pharmacists to order and administer these vaccines, this expansion supports students who are preparing to return to daycare, preschool, and public schools. “Especially as we approach the school season, it is critical that children have easy access to the pediatric vaccinations to enable them to get back to school as schools reopen,” Azar said.
What Does This Amendment to the PREP Act Include?
The third amendment to the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act) grants both state-licensed pharmacists as well as licensed interns (under supervision) authorization to order and administer these vaccines to children between 3 and 18 years old.
The amendment does not license pharmacists to provide vaccines to children under the age of 3. While many important vaccines are administered to children younger than 3 years old, additional training, supervision, and support must be provided for this particular age group.
HHS Requirements for Pharmacists to Order and Administer Vaccines
The HHS’s expansion for pharmacists and pharmacy interns to administer vaccines to children between the ages of 3 to 18 years old is subject to several requirements, including:
- The vaccine must be approved or licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- The vaccination must be ordered and administered according to the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) immunization schedules.
- The licensed pharmacist and pharmacy intern must both complete a practical training program of at least 20 hours that is approved by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). The licensed pharmacist and licensed or registered pharmacy intern must have a current certificate in basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
- The licensed pharmacist must complete a minimum of two hours of ACPE-approved, immunization-related continuing pharmacy education during each state licensing period.
- The licensed pharmacist must comply with record keeping and reporting requirements of the jurisdiction in which he or she administers vaccines.
- The licensed pharmacist must inform child patients and the adult caregivers accompanying the children of the importance of a well-child visit with a pediatrician or other licensed primary care provider and refer patients as appropriate.
Why Has the HHS Expanded Access to Pharmacists?
According to a May 2020 report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood immunizations have dropped sharply since the outbreak of COVID-19. According to this report, routine childhood immunizations have decreased as a result of families staying at home and fearing the risk of exposure to COVID by going to medical facilities or doctors’ offices to receive their immunizations.
This decrease in childhood vaccination rates is a public health threat and could potentially pose an increased risk as flu season approaches and as children go back to school or attempt to reintegrate into daily life. Although experts have limited data on the interaction and impact between the coronavirus and the influenza virus, they do recognize that since both attack the respiratory system, unvaccinated patients risk a double threat of infection from both viruses at the same time.
The CDC recommends September and October as good times to get vaccinated. With the additional strain on the healthcare system, the increased availability of the flu vaccine as well as other immunizations is a critical intervention to combat an additional resurgence of COVID-19 among some of our most vulnerable populations.
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|Written by Juliette Willard
Healthcare Communications Specialist
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