In an effort to expand access to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has authorized state-licensed pharmacists to order and administer COVID-19 vaccinations once available to patients aged 3 years and older.1

“This action builds on our Administration’s progress toward delivering a safe, effective, and widely available vaccine by 2021,” said Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett P. Giroir, MD, in a press release. “Allowing pharmacists to order and administer COVID-19 vaccines will greatly expand convenient access for the American people.”1

Under the new guidance, pharmacists or licensed pharmacy interns must complete a practical training program of at least 20 hours approved by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) and must complete a minimum of 2 hours of ACPE-approved, immunization-related continuing education during each state pharmacy period, in addition to usual requirements, such as appropriate record keeping and having a current CPR certificate.1

"The country needs pharmacists to be a major player in the administration of coronavirus vaccines," said B. Douglas Hoey, BS Pharm, MBA, CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association, in a statement. "NCPA appreciates steps the Trump administration is taking to make sure hat pharmacies can administer these immunizations when they come to market. As with coronavirus testing, ensuring access to vaccines in community pharmacies rather than solely in national chains will be critical if NCPA members are to help Operation Warp Speed meet its goal of administering 300 million doses nationwide. Independent pharmacy is ready and eager to partner in the administration of the vaccines."2

The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) praised the announcement, saying it recognizes the significant role pharmacists are playing in the pandemic.3

"This is tremendous news," said Scott J. Knoer, MS, PharmD, FASHP, executive vice president and CEO of APhA, in a statement. "It properly recognizes that pharmacists serve a vital role in the nation's response to this pandemic. It increases patients' access to care during this emergency with providers whom they trust, at a time and place that is convenient to them."2

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) also commended the announcement, adding that Medicare should follow suit to ensure Medicare beneficiaries receive COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.4

"We commend HHS for taking this step to ensure that patients can turn to our nation's most accessible health care providers to access the COVID-19 vaccine as pharmacists participate in the global effort to protect our communities from worsening and future outbreaks," said Tom Kraus, MHS, vice president of government relations at ASHP, in a statement. "It's time for Medicare to follow suit and make sure that Medicare beneficiaries can receive COVID-19 testing and vaccination services from pharmacists."4

The action by HHS is part of a growing movement to expand the ability of pharmacists and pharmacy staff to meet the needs of patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On August 19, HHS authorized all state-licensed pharmacists and pharmacy interns to order and administer vaccines for patients aged 3 through 18 years in an effort to increase access to childhood vaccines and decrease the risk of vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks.

The move was lauded by top pharmacy advocacy groups, including the American Pharmacists Association, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), and National Community Pharmacists Association.

“This is an extremely important public health decision to ensure young Americans, their families, our communities, and our nation can benefit more completely from life-saving vaccines and from the paramount education, trust and accessibility of pharmacies and pharmacists,” said NACDS President and CEO Steven C. Anderson in a statement following the August HHS announcement.


REFERENCE
1. Trump Administration Takes Action to Expand Access to COVID-19 Vaccines [news release]. Department of Health and Human Services; September 9, 2020. https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2020/09/09/trump-administration-takes-action-to-expand-access-to-covid-19-vaccines.html. Accessed September 9, 2020.
2. Email. [EXTERNAL] NCPA Statement on HHS Authorizing Pharmacists to Order and Administer COVID-19 Vaccines. NCPA; September 10, 2020.
3. APhA Hails HHS Announcement Authorizing Pharmacists to Administer COVID-19 Vaccines [news release]. American Pharmacists Association; September 9, 2020. Email. Accessed September 9, 2020.
4. Email. [EXTERNAL] Pharmacists Ready to Deliver Vaccines per HHS Action Today. ASHP; September 10, 2020.