HHS expands pharmacists' authority to give vaccinations

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HHS has given pharmacists the authority to administer vaccines to children ages 3 and older under a new amendment to the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness, or PREP, Act. 

The amendment, announced Aug. 19, allows pharmacists to administer childhood vaccinations, subject to several requirements, such as that the vaccine must be approved or licensed by the FDA, the pharmacist must complete a training program of at least 20 hours that is approved by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education and the pharmacist must have a current certificate in basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation. 

HHS said the decision to expand pharmacists' vaccination authority was made because of a "troubling drop" in routine childhood vaccinations caused by families staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"This decrease in childhood-vaccination rates is a public health threat and a collateral harm caused by the COVID-19 pandemic," HHS said. 

The agency said the amendment is intended to avoid preventable diseases in children, additional strains on the healthcare system and any further increase in avoidable adverse health consequences, particularly if such complications coincide with an additional resurgence of COVID-19.

"Today’s action means easier access to lifesaving vaccines for our children, as we seek to ensure immunization rates remain high during the COVID-19 pandemic," said HHS Secretary Alex Azar.

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