In addition to community pharmacists’ expertise in providing health screenings and helping patients take medications as prescribed, in its statement NACDS noted recognition of community pharmacy by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in helping to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and increase the nation’s vaccination rate.
“[A]ccording to data collected by CDC, pharmacists have been instrumental in increasing the vaccination rate in the United States. In fact, the CDC has specifically asked the pharmacy community for its continued support and efforts to help address vaccination needs in their local communities,” NACDS said in its statement.
Amid the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, the government called on community pharmacy to assist in vaccinating Americans to curb the spread of the disease. Since that time, more and more Americans are receiving vaccinations for influenza, shingles and other diseases from their pharmacists.
Currently, pharmacists can vaccinate for influenza in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The CDC reports that in 2010-2011, nearly 20 percent of Americans received their flu shot from a community pharmacy.
In its statement NACDS cited that pharmacists’ ability to expand their scope of practice to provide more immunizations is limited in many states due to state laws and age restrictions for patients.
“Pharmacists should be allowed to practice to the maximum of their capabilities, partnering with other healthcare providers in coordinated efforts to decrease the number of under-vaccinated Americans. Laws and regulations that limit the ability of pharmacists to administer vaccinations should be amended to enable pharmacists to make a broader impact on vaccination rates,” NACDS said in its statement.
“Expanding pharmacists’ vaccination authority can also lead to decreased healthcare costs for consumers, health insurers and other third-party payors, including Medicare and Medicaid. As noted by the Department of Defense in a 2011 final rule expanding the portfolio of vaccines that TRICARE beneficiaries may obtain from community pharmacies, significant savings [$1.8 million] were achieved under the TRICARE program when the program was first implemented to allow beneficiaries to obtain flu & pneumococcal vaccines from retail pharmacies,” NACDS said in its statement.
NACDS also emphasized the education and qualifications of community pharmacists to take on an expanded role in immunization. Pharmacists are highly-skilled healthcare professionals. Students currently graduate from a minimum six-year program with a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D) degree. They are trained medication specialists who work collaboratively to help patients use medicines safely and stay healthy.
“It is the goal of all pharmacy schools to prepare pharmacists who can assume expanded responsibilities in the care of patients and assure the provision of rational drug therapy,” NACDS said in its statement.
“Considering the improvements in public health and the healthcare savings that one can expect to achieve through expanding the authority of pharmacists to administer immunizations, any influenza preparedness strategy should maximize the potential of pharmacists to provide important immunization services to more Americans and to practice up to their full capability,” NACDS concluded in its statement.