The Next Horizon: Pharmacists and Travel Immunizations


When frontline pharmacists are trained to provide travel health services, they can expand access to patients due to their convenience.

Pharmacists’ ability to administer travel immunizations differs across the United States. The Journal of the American Pharmacists Association has published a summary that is the first of its kind, discussing the scope of practice for pharmacists regarding travel medicine in every state.

Travel can threaten health in a number of ways, especially when travelers visit countries that have endemic disease. For this reason, the CDC recommends specific measures to be taken before travel. They publish extensive guidelines on pre-travel immunizations and offer advice on how to prepare for travel based on expected activities and the patient’s existing health status. Travelers need to know what to do if they become ill while traveling and when to seek professional health care.

This review, assembled by researchers from West Coast University, School of Pharmacy, in Los Angeles, California, collected data on pharmacists’ authority to provide travel health services. They also gathered information about the need for a collaborative practice agreements, protocols or prescriptions; that is, they looked at pharmacists’ ability to provide travel services independently.

Pharmacists can provide some routine immunizations in all 51 jurisdictions. Only in New Mexico, however, can pharmacists provide a full range of travel intervention independently under a statewide protocol. In that state, pharmacists can administer routine and travel immunizations, provide prescription travel-related medication, and order laboratory tests.

In slightly more than half of jurisdictions, pharmacists can provide prescription travel medications. In slightly less than half of jurisdictions, pharmacists can order travel-related laboratory tests. In some states, they need an individual protocol or a collaborative practice agreement.

Several states do not allow pharmacists to administer yellow fever vaccine, and delegate administration of that vaccine to state health departments only. The authors identified this as a potential barrier to pharmacy-based full travel health services.

The authors concluded that when frontline pharmacists are trained to provide travel health services, they can expand access to patients due to their convenience.

Learn more about travel health services that community pharmacies can provide here.


Hurley-Kim K, Snead R, Hess KM. Pharmacists' scope of practice in travel health: A review of state laws and regulations. J Am Pharm Assoc.. 2018 Jan 13. pii: S1544-3191(17)31001-4. doi: 10.1016/j.japh.2017.12.004. [Epub ahead of print]

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