In a hearing on Capitol Hill, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores told legislators that community pharmacies stand ready to take an active role as the nation prepares for the H1N1 "swine flu" pandemic.


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Community pharmacy: We're ready for H1N1

November 18th, 2009
Pharmacies are "uniquely capable of immunizing large numbers of people," NACDS noted in a House committee hearing on H1N1 preparedness.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – In a hearing on Capitol Hill, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores told legislators that community pharmacies stand ready to take an active role as the nation prepares for the H1N1 "swine flu" pandemic.

NACDS said that on Wednesday it submitted an official statement as part of a House Committee on Energy and Commerce joint subcommittee hearing on "H1N1 Preparedness: An Overview of Vaccine Production and Distribution."

In the statement, the association outlined the industry's commitment to patient health and safety as well as its efforts to address the H1N1 pandemic.

"Community pharmacies are uniquely capable of immunizing large numbers of people, thanks to their convenient locations, easy access during evenings and weekends, and specially trained pharmacists. The laws in all 50 states authorize pharmacists to administer vaccinations," the statement read.

"Pharmacies also provide oral antiviral medications and ancillary health care supplies, such as hand sanitizers, as well as retail health clinics offering additional health care services in many locations," the letter stated.

NACDS also noted that over the summer, drug store chains initiated plans to support public health H1N1 efforts, namely for the administration of H1N1 vaccine and the distribution of oral antiviral agents.

In additon, the association said it held a stakeholder workgroup meeting with pharmacy representatives and other organizations and produced the "Operational Framework for Partnering with Pharmacies for Administration of 2009 H1N1 Vaccine," a document published by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials to serve as a guide to state and territorial health officials.

"We are pleased to report that the potential contribution of community pharmacies has been well-recognized in public health pandemic plans," the statement read. "Community pharmacies have enrolled broadly as H1N1 vaccine providers in state provider networks. Several states have issued emergency orders to expand the ability of pharmacists to administer H1N1 vaccine, such as by lowering the age limits and streamlining H1N1 vaccination protocols. Many state Medicaid programs issued rules to reimburse pharmacies for administering H1N1 vaccine to beneficiaries. Community pharmacies prepared their pharmacists and contract vendors to receive and administer H1N1 vaccine and now await delivery of the vaccine for administration to priority patient groups."

The NACDS statement also cited some challenges. "The wide variety of state and local H1N1 vaccination processes and restrictions have added complexity to community pharmacy support, and we would recommend a more uniform process in the future," it said. "The uncertainty of product delivery, including the lack in advance identification of which product type and quantities will be delivered, and the undefined delivery schedule make it difficult to schedule vaccination services."

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