This post was updated Jan. 11, 2020, with information regarding vaccine administration during the COVID-19 pandemic. In August of 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Safety (HHS) announced that it would authorize licensed pharmacists to administer all vaccines recommended by the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), and approved or licensed by the FDA, to all children ages 3 to 18 during the COVID-19 pandemic, regardless of state laws and regulations to the contrary.
In the United States alone, over 80,000 people died in 2018 due to influenza and complications from influenza, which is a vaccine preventable disease. Measles, once thought to be eradicated in America, have made a reappearance in communities where parents are reluctant to vaccinate their children.
By educating and allowing pharmacists to administer vaccines, the number of providers and sites where people can be vaccinated have increased, which has in turn increased the immunization rates. Ultimately, this should decrease the spread of these preventable diseases.
Currently, all 50 states in the United States, plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico, allow pharmacists to administer vaccinations.
Pharmacists first began providing immunizations focused on influenza and pneumonia, but with the increase of vaccination rates due to easier access through pharmacies, there has also been an increase in the types of vaccines pharmacists can administer. Pharmacists can now administer:
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine; HPV is the virus that causes cervical cancer
- Zoster vaccine, which prevents shingles
- Meningococcal vaccine, which prevents meningococcal meningitis
- Tdap vaccine, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.
- Td booster vaccine for tetanus and diphtheria
Some reasons patients are choosing pharmacies over doctor offices for vaccinations:
- No appointment is needed at a pharmacy.
- Pharmacies usually have shorter wait times.
- Pharmacies are usually conveniently located and easily accessible.
- Pharmacies offer discount programs and other options that make them more affordable.
- Pharmacists have access to patient medical history and can warn patients of any possible interactions with prescription medications.
- Pharmacists will forward immunization records to primary care physicians to be added to a patient’s medical history.
As with any medical procedure, even where to get vaccinated, patients will want to do their homework, and they will have questions. Convenience is great, but make sure pharm techs and pharmacists have the information they need to assure patients are getting the best quality of care.
State laws vary on types of vaccines, age limits, protocols, and prescription needs. See this chart for guidelines by state:
Pocket Nurse has simulated vaccinations, needles, and InjectEd™ pads to educate pharmacists and pharm techs on how to safely administer immunizations.
"In Major Win, HHS Authorizes Pharmacists to Order and Administer Vaccines to Children Nationwide During the Public Health Emergency," Press Release from the American Pharmacist's Association, Aug. 19, 2020, https://www.pharmacist.com/press-release/major-win-hhs-authorizes-pharmacists-order-and-administer-vaccines-children