Pharmacists can now give childhood vaccinations throughout the United States in an effort to prevent future outbreaks of measles and other preventable diseases, according to a report this week from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday announced the directive, which allows pharmacists to administer vaccines to children and teens aged 3-18 years old.
“Today’s action means easier access to lifesaving vaccines for our children, as we seek to ensure immunization rates remain high during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Azar said in a news release.
Currently, not all states allow pharmacists to administer vaccines but the new directive will change that. State-licensed pharmacists will now be given permission to give the routine childhood vaccinations after they complete a training program, according to officials. They will need a prescription to give the vaccines.
“The Trump Administration has worked to allow pharmacists — alongside all of America’s heroic healthcare workers — to practice at the top of their license, empowering the public with more options to protect their health and well-being,” Azar stated in the release.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report in May described a decrease in routine vaccinations because of families staying home during the coronavirus outbreak. As the school year draws near and daycare centers plan to reopen, the importance of vaccinations for children is top of mind.
“The cornerstone of public health, vaccines, makes these dreaded diseases preventable, HHS Assistant Secretary for Health, Dr. Brett P. Giroir said in a statement. “As we expand options during the COVID-19 response, we are also reminding parents, grandparents and caretakers that there is no substitute for a critically important well-child visit with a pediatrician or other licensed primary care provider when available.”
However, not everyone is on board with this new policy. The American Academy of Pediatrics wrote on their website that they oppose the new directive.
“This move is incredibly misguided. In the middle of a pandemic, what families are looking for is reassurance and clinical guidance from the doctors they trust most to care for their children: pediatricians,” AAP President Dr. Sally Goza, said in a statement. “Pediatricians’ offices are open and safe. We have all necessary childhood and adolescent vaccines in stock with trained medical professionals who can administer them. We know that the best, safest place for children to get vaccinated is in their medical home.”
The American Pharmacists Association had reportedly been in discussions with federal officials about expanding services during the pandemic, said Mitchel Rothholz, the organization’s chief of governance and state affiliates, according to the Associated Press.
“I wouldn’t say we initiated” the idea of gaining federal authorization to vaccinate children, he said in the Associated Press report. “It was part of ongoing conversations going on with decision-makers, both at the federal and state level.”
For a list of CDC guidance of vaccination during COVID-19, click here.