Vaccines are safe and effective. Yet an “unacceptably low” number of Americans receive their vaccinations, forgoing one of the most efficient forms of preventative care in the world. Part of that is due to false notions about vaccines’ efficacy and safety that stem from political fear-mongering and conspiracy theories. But another barrier to better vaccination rates is lack of access — and on World Immunization Week (April 24–30), some public health advocates are urging lawmakers to break it down.
Pharmacy Choice and Action Now (PCAN) is launching a national campaign to convince state lawmakers to loosen regulations on pharmacists providing vaccinations. Currently, appropriately-trained pharmacists can administer shots — but only a select few of them. In a press release, PCAN explained that “all 50 states allow trained pharmacists to administer vaccinations — all qualified state pharmacists can administer the influenza vaccine and 44 states allow qualified pharmacists to administer the shingles vaccine — but pharmacists are ready and willing to do more.”
In fact, pharmacists may actually have to do more in order to facilitate the influx of newly-insured patients who will gain coverage as Obamacare is fully implemented. The success of health care reform will largely depend on increased coordination between various medical workers, as well as more responsibilities for primary care doctors, technicians, nurses, and pharmacists. Pharmacies such as Walgreens have already announced plans to get ahead of the curve and start directly providing primary and chronic care services to their customers.
Other than assisting with health care reform, opening up pharmacists’ ability to administer vaccinations would also prove a crucial preventative health resource for low-income, rural, and other secluded populations that don’t have easy access to hospitals. In turn, that could help stem the tide of preventable deaths due to non-vaccination. “More than 50,000 adults and 300 children die from vaccine-preventable diseases or from their complications each year in the U.S. alone — I think we can do better than that,” said PCAN Chair Bill Mincy in the press release. “Expanding immunization authority for pharmacists is a sure way to increase access to vaccines and keep our communities healthy. I encourage state legislators to take a look at current laws and consider ways to achieve this.”