HHS Responds to Drop in Pediatric Vaccines Because of Stay-at-Home Orders
As families follow public health recommendations to stay at home, many have missed routine vaccinations. In response to lower vaccination rates, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released an amendment (https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2020/08/19/hhs-expands-access-childhood-vaccines-during-covid-19-pandemic.html) to the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act) to encourage vaccinations and safeguard children at risk for life-threatening diseases.
In the act’s third amendment, HHS authorized state-licensed pharmacists to order and administer vaccines to children aged 3–18 years under certain conditions:
The vaccine must be approved or licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The vaccination must be ordered and administered according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s immunization schedule (https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/hcp/imz/child-adolescent.html).
The pharmacist must complete a practical training program of at least 20 hours approved (https://www.acpe-accredit.org/pharmd-program-accreditation/) by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.
The pharmacist must inform pediatric patients and their adult caregivers of the importance of a well-child visit with a pediatrician or other licensed primary care provider and refer patients as appropriate.
HHS also granted (https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2020/08/19/hhs-expands-access-childhood-vaccines-during-covid-19-pandemic.html) the same authorizations to interns acting under the pharmacist’s supervision, if the pharmacy intern is also licensed or registered through the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (https://nabp.pharmacy/boards-of-pharmacy/).
“As a pediatric critical care physician who has treated critically ill children suffering from vaccine-preventable diseases, I know firsthand the devastation to the child—and to the family and community—of a death or severe brain damage that could have been avoided by a safe and effective vaccine,” HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Brett P. Giroir, MD, said. “As we expand options during the COVID-19 response, we are also reminding parents, grandparents, and caretakers that there is no substitute for a critically important well-child visit with a pediatrician or other licensed primary care provider when available.”