Flu season is in full swing, and many are clamoring for their vaccines to try and keep the dreaded illness at bay. October is also American Pharmacist Month, so this is a great time for a reminder about one of the most convenient ways to access your flu shot: at your local community pharmacy. Unfortunately, in many states pharmacists can only administer flu shots, but not vaccines for whooping cough or pneumonia. Why the disparity? A vaccine is a vaccine is a vaccine, right? Well, not exactly in the eyes of the law.
The push to turn pharmacists into vaccinators dates back at least to the mid-1990s. Donna Shalala, then secretary of Health and Human Services, saw it as a way to improve the country’s immunization rates and pressed the American Pharmacists’ Association to develop a plan, according to Mitch Rothholz, chief strategy officer for that organization. Some states already had laws on the books that allowed pharmacists to immunize people, even if these provisions were rarely used. The APhA developed a rigorous training program for pharmacists. State pharmacy associations also began to lobby their legislatures. But for years it was slow going.Traditionally, doctors were the go-to health care professionals when it came to vaccinations, but pharmacies are easily accessible, convenient and affordable. Plus, community pharmacists are highly educated on administering vaccines and are readily available to discuss vaccines and how to keep communities healthy. At a time when many people don’t have health insurance (so they’re not going to doctors), and many healthy people just don’t go to the doctor, then letting pharmacists administer flu, shingles and pneumonia vaccines in all 50 states makes a whole lot of sense.
Click here to read the full coverage at Slate, and visit Pharmacy Choice and Access Now to learn more about how you can support community pharmacies and speak out about enabling pharmacists to administer more vaccines!