In an effort to boost childhood immunization rates, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that pharmacists are now permitted to administer vaccines to children ages 3 and older. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, stay-at-home orders have greatly disrupted routine preventative and follow up care, particularly childhood immunizations. HHS explains that expanding access to vaccines will ensure that rates remain high, help to avoid preventable diseases in children and mitigate the associated public health threat.
As outlined in the HHS news release, all vaccines administered by a pharmacist must be approved or licensed by the Food and Drug Administration and be ordered and delivered according to the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices immunization schedule. Additionally, the pharmacist must complete a training program of at least 20 hours that is approved by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education and hold a current certificate in basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The complete list of requirements is outlined in the HHS press release.
As children across the United States return to daycare and schools, HHS says it’s critical to reduce the risk of vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks. The HHS amendment is an opportunity for medical providers to instill confidence in parents of pediatric patients about getting vaccinated safely. Physicians are strongly encouraged to emphasize the importance of immunizations and to inform parents about the expanded access, especially those who may still be hesitant to visit an office due to COVID-19. HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir notes that, although the amendment creates more vaccination options, parents and caretakers should still be reminded “that there is no substitute for a critically important well-child visit with a pediatrician or other licensed primary care provider.”
Physicians and other providers are advised to monitor all HHS and CDC guidance pertaining to preventative and follow-up care delivery during the pandemic and review MLMIC’s blog post highlighting the New York State Department of Health’s advisory on ensuring patient access to routine care.