Soon after the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) expressed opposition to the policy allowing all pharmacists to administer childhood vaccinations, 12 pharmacy organizations banded together in support of the profession’s ability to vaccinate.
“There are no greater public health priorities today than defeating the COVID-19 pandemic and protecting our nation from other vaccine-preventable diseases like the seasonal flu. We need all hands on deck to improve Americans’ access to life-saving vaccines during these difficult times,” APhA, NCPA, ASHP, and several other groups said in a joint statement.1 “For that reason, we celebrate the action by the US Department of Health and Human Services to expand pharmacists’ role in providing life-saving vaccines to children.”
The AAP believes children should receive vaccines with a pediatrician “who knows their medical history and who can simultaneously provide services like developmental and mental health screenings, counseling about nutrition and injury prevention, and chronic disease management,” the organization said in a news release.2
“This unprecedented expansion of pharmacies’ ability to administer vaccines to children is not a solution to the vaccine hesitancy that is driving down rates of childhood immunizations in the US,” said AAP President Sara “Sally” H. Goza, MD. “Many parents have questions about their children’s vaccines, and pediatricians are ready to talk with them. It’s what we do, every day, one-on-one with thousands of parents, as part of the long-term trusting relationships that families have with their physicians.”
Some retail pharmacists have expressed concerns about the policy through social media groups online, especially as pharmacies prepare for a busy flu season. However, pharmacists are well educated about vaccines, the pharmacy groups pointed out. “Nearly every pharmacist in America who would be called upon to administer vaccinations has already completed the level of training to which [HHS] Secretary [Alex] Azar refers—and has prior experience vaccinating patients. Pharmacists are also the nation’s most accessible health care professionals, with 90% of Americans living within 5 miles of a community pharmacy,” they said.
“Statements made by those who disagree with HHS’ action must acknowledge the fact that overall vaccination rates are falling, and families’ visits to health care providers are still below pre-pandemic levels, influenced by vaccine hesitancy or loss of employment during COVID-19,” the pharmacy groups said. “Engaging pharmacists to increase immunization access and capacity across the US will provide increased prevention and facilitate needed referrals to primary care providers.”
The authority provided by HHS also contemplates collaboration and communication with other members of the health care and public health communities through documentation, referral, and public education efforts, the pharmacy groups noted. “We are committed to working with all providers to serve the public health needs of our communities. Now, more than ever, health care practitioners must work together to put patients first,” they said.
1. Immunization providers need to work together to increase access to lifesaving childhood vaccines. News release. APhA; August 21, 2020. Accessed August 24, 2020. https://www.pharmacist.com/press-release/immunization-providers-need-work-together-increase-access-lifesaving-childhood
2. AAP: HHS action on pharmacy vaccination ‘misguided’. News release. American Academy of Pediatrics; August 19, 2020. Accessed August 24, 2020. https://www.aappublications.org/news/2020/08/19/immunization081920