Win for Pharmacists & Children - HHS Certifies Pharmacists to Provide Vaccines to Children During COVID-19 Pandemic

Aug 21, 2020
Yesterday, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar authorized state-licensed pharmacists (and pharmacy interns acting under supervision of a licensed pharmacist) to order/administer all CDC recommended & FDA approved vaccines for children age 3-18 (pharmacists must meet requirements outlined in the HHS press release). This new authorization aims to ensure stronger vaccine access for children during the pandemic, following a May CDC report showing a decline in childhood immunizations. Secretary Azar noted that 28 states have existing laws similar to this new federal declaration; however, 22 states currently limit pharmacists’ ability to provide these immunizations, making HHS’ announcement so critical. 
However, it remains unclear if states need to take additional action to enforce or implement this federal decision, and several questions remain regarding how pharmacists will be reimbursed by payers.  ABC & GNP will work with manufacturer and pharmacy partners in the American Disease Prevention Coalition to monitor these concerns. Pharmacists’ ability to provide care to patients (e.g. administering immunizations and flu tests) varies by state, service and payer-type.  Pharmacists are recognized as providers for services in some states but are not recognized as providers within Medicare. If Congress establishes pharmacists as providers in Medicare, the hope is that other states and payers will follow.  In 2019, 147 provider status-related bills were introduced in state legislatures aiming to expand pharmacist scope of practice, payment for services and/or designation of pharmacists as providers in Medicaid and/or commercial plans. Idaho even expanded pharmacist prescriptive authority last year. NASPA has resources reflecting current state laws re: pharmacists’ ability to provide additional care to patients.     

We applaud this positive development for pharmacists and children, reflecting HHS’ trust and recognition of pharmacists in providing patient care. This action also strengthens our arguments/legislative strategy to recognize pharmacists as providers within Medicare for providing flu and COVID-19 tests and immunizations.  NACDS, NCPA and APhA issued positive statements on the HHS announcement.