A pharmacy-focused coalition is calling on the Pennsylvania General Assembly to support legislation that would facilitate access to vaccines for school-age children and teens.

pharmacist-administered immunizations, Pennsylvania General Assembly, House Bill 776, Pharmacy Choice & Access Now, PCAN, Rep. Seth Grove, Patricia Dowley Kroboth, University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy, Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association

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In Pennsylvania, pharmacist immunization bill gains momentum

August 28th, 2013

PITTSBURGH – A pharmacy-focused coalition is calling on the Pennsylvania General Assembly to support legislation that would facilitate access to vaccines for school-age children and teens.

Pharmacy Choice & Access Now (PCAN) on Wednesday urged Pennsylvania lawmakers to vote in favor of House Bill 776, which would allow trained and qualified pharmacists in the state to administer immunizations to children ages 7 and older, with parental consent.

The bill's main sponsor, state Rep. Seth Grove (R.), was joined by educators, health care professionals and students at the University Club in Oakland, Pa., to highlight the key role that pharmacists play in delivering health care to local residents, including pharmacist-administered immunizations.

PCAN is a national coalition of consumers, local businesses and pharmacists aimed at supporting quality and affordable health care and pharmacy services for patients.

"Being vaccinated is critical to staying healthy at all ages. We have the opportunity to increase accessibility for Pennsylvania children to get the protection they need," Patricia Dowley Kroboth, dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy, said in a statement. "Expanding pharmacists' ability to administer vaccinations would be a big step toward correcting this and improving the health of people of the commonwealth. Pharmacists are trained and ready to help ensure that all school-age children and teenagers are properly vaccinated, and this legislation would give them the go-ahead to fulfill that mission."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccination for all children over 6 months, and state law requires a Tdap shot for protection against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis for all children entering seventh grade, according to PCAN.

The coalition noted that parents face obstacles in making sure their kids get vaccinated. For example, children who are healthy usually visit a doctor just once a year, and the visit may not coincide with the need for a vaccine. Families, too, may live in areas where there is a shortage of doctors, making it hard to schedule an appointment in a timely manner. A parent's work schedule may also make it tough to schedule a doctor's appointment during normal business hours.

Broadening pharmacists' authority to administer vaccines would give parents a convenient option, PCAN said. Pharmacies are typically open in the evenings and on weekends are easily accessible, with more than 2,000 locations throughout Pennsylvania, according to the group.

What's more, PCAN added, pharmacists are well-qualified to administer injections; they must be licensed and have immunizations certification, which requires individual study, hands-on training and demonstrated mastery of technique.

Pharmacists have been safely providing immunizations to adults in Pennsylvania for many years, and Grove's bill would bring Pennsylvania in line with what's now being done in 36 states, the group said. One in five Americans now gets a flu shot from their local pharmacist, according to the CDC.

"Families would greatly benefit from the option of pharmacist-provided vaccines for their kids," stated Kroboth. "I applaud Rep. Grove for recognizing the value of pharmacies."

In May, doctors in Pennsylvania also had urged state legislators, in letters sent to the House Professional Licensure Committee, to back House Bill 776, according to the Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association. The physicians' letters accompanied letters sent by Pennsylvania's seven schools of pharmacy to express support for the bill.