A new report shows these providers are playing a larger role in vaccine administration, but without federal legislation codifying PREP, half the US states could determine not to continue this path for pharmacists and take away this now vital responsibility.
Last month, the Global Healthy Living Foundation (GHLF) announced it had published a new report finding an increase nationwide in people receiving vaccines at pharmacies compared to physician practices in 2020 and 2021.
This report was commissioned by the GHLF and the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science to better understand immunization access improvements following the enactment of the PREP Act and subsequent modifications made during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report showed that across all vaccines for adults (regardless of location, gender, or income), a large majority of the administration took place at the pharmacy level, with most COVID-19, shingles, and flu shots administered by pharmacists (as compared to non-pharmacy medical settings).
Of course, when COVID-19 vaccines became available during the pandemic, pharmacists took on a significant role in administering these shots to the general public.
Robert Popovian, PharmD, MS, Chief Science Policy Officer, Global Healthy Living Foundation, says that after the mass vaccination sites closed, there was a void that needed to be filled and pharmacists stepped in. “Pharmacists and pharmacies became the primary providers of adult vaccines,” he said.
Fortunately, pharmacists had the medical training and the professional trust with the public built in already to be able to handle the transition so that people could be served.
The legal foundation for this was the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act), which was put in place during the pandemic, and this law allowed pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to administer certain vaccines including for COVID-19. This law enabled people to go to their local pharmacy, thus giving people the convenience but also helping to lessen the burden on medical practices, hospitals, and other medical centers.
The PREP Act is set to sunset in 2024, thus leaving 25 states without the ability to continue this practice, unless federal legislation renews it.
Equally important, the GHLF report details the other vital vaccines pharmacies are administering including HPV, pneumococcal, and influenza vaccines. Popovian also points out that pharmacies are bridging the health equity gap to care for people in low-income communities who are getting access to vaccines, in areas that might not have medical practices.
Without governmental advocacy demanding the PREP Act be codified, it will go away next year.
“You never want to curtail access,” Popovian stated. “We provided access to our communities for the last two years and now in certain states when the PREP Act and the declarations go away, everything is going to be contracted—and that’s not where we want to be as a society, as a country; we want to expand care.”
Contagion spoke to Popovian who provided further details on the role pharmacists play in vaccine administration, discussed the report, and how advocacy can keep this portion of healthcare access remain in place.