As patients across North America continue to turn to their neighborhood pharmacy for vaccinations, state and provincial governments in the United States and Canada are widening the range of immunizations that can be administered by a pharmacist.
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“There’s been a recognition that pharmacists play a valuable role in maintaining patients’ health,” American Pharmacists Association chief strategy officer Mitchel Rothholz said. “Public health officials around the country have come to see providing vaccines as a critical component of that role.”
While all 50 states allow pharmacists with immunization training and certification to administer some vaccines, a handful continue to restrict pharmacists to providing just flu shots and a limited number of other immunizations.
All told, 43 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico allow pharmacists with an existing prescriber protocol to administer any vaccine approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of these jurisdictions, however, 18 mandate that a patient have a prescription. In some cases that requirement is limited only to patients younger than 18 years old.
In Canada, six of the country’s 13 provinces and territories allow pharmacists to administer flu vaccines with some jurisdictions also permitting them to provide other immunizations.
Meanwhile, regulators across the United States continue to loosen restrictions on pharmacist-administered vaccinations.
In Louisiana, for instance, a bill introduced last month would let pharmacists administer all immunizations and vaccines without a prescription to patients older than 17 years.
That proposal comes on the heels of several other changes to state laws over the past year that have expanded pharmacists’ role in immunizations.
Among those moves, the one that has impacted the greatest number of patients has been California’s expansion of pharmacists’ scope of practice. The law, which went into effect in October, makes pharmacists in the state a more central part of a patient’s healthcare team, and authorizes them to administer drugs and routine vaccinations.
That same month also saw North Carolina begin to let pharmacists vaccinate against pneumonia, shingles, hepatitis B, meningitis and tetanus. Previously, they were only authorized to administer flu vaccines.
“States are making the right decisions,” National Association of Chain Drug Stores VP of media relations Chrissy Kopple said. “We anticipate that will continue to be the case.”