To avoid future outbreaks of preventable illnesses (e.g. the measles), pharmacists within 50 American states have been given the okay to administer childhood vaccinations. The head of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Alex Azar, has moved this new directive along by using emergency powers extended during the American COVID-19 epidemic, which has been declared as a public health emergency. The move will pre-empt restrictions, temporarily, within 22 states as of this coming fall. It will also help to stop vaccination rates from decreasing during this current pandemic.
A report conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently revealed that childhood shots administered from doctor’s offices drastically decreased during the height of the American lockdowns (late March/early April), as most had offices that were not opened or simply saw less patients. This created some concern around the potential of vaccination rates falling.
With that said, a May survey of pediatricians relayed that most doctors’ offices were open at that point in time, and could offer up childhood shots with more than 50 percent taking on new clients. Another report from the CDC this past July also noted that New York City witnessed a recovery when it came to childhood vaccinations. It’s important to note that yearly nationwide numbers from the CDC won’t be available until another year.
Azar relayed that as the U.S. approaches a new school year, kids must have easy access to their childhood shots so that they have all they need to head back to school when they re-open.
Right now, there are 28 U.S. states where pharmacists administer childhood shots, but laws limit these in 22 states, including three that forbid this all together. This authorization by the HHH will allow state-licensed pharmacies to administer childhood shots without needing a prescription from a doctor. A pharmacist is required to complete the training program, although a good portion of them may have this already, according to Azar.
With that said, the directive does not give the “OK” when it comes to childhood shots for those under the ages of three. While some of the most vital vaccinations are administered to toddlers and babies, pharmacists don’t have the medical support or training to give these out.
Most vaccinations given during the childhood years are done at a doctor’s office, so it is unusual to head to the local pharmacy for shots. In 2018, a mere seven percent of childhood flu shots were given at pharmacies, this as per CDC numbers.
Mitchel Rothholz, Chief of Governance, American Pharmacists Association, noted that his organization has had discussions with U.S. federal officials around widening services that its members can offer during the COVID-19 pandemic. While he states that they didn’t “initiate” this, the concept of gaining authorization on a federal level to offer childhood vaccinations was one aspect of an ongoing conversation they had with decision-makers both at the state and federal level.