HHS expands access to childhood vaccines during pandemic

Aug. 21, 2020

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will allow pharmacists to order and administer vaccines to children and youth during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a press release from HHS.

HHS said it is “expanding access to childhood vaccines 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.”

In making the announcement, HHS noted that a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in May found a drop in routine childhood immunizations as a result of families staying at home during the pandemic.

In the report, the CDC found that the number of non-influenza vaccine doses administered to children up to 18 years of age decreased 21.5 percent during January–April 2020, compared with average rates for the same periods in 2018 and 2019.

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

To qualify to administer the vaccines, a licensed pharmacist must complete a practical training program of at least 20 hours that is approved by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), which must include hands-on injection technique, clinical evaluation of indications and contraindications of vaccines, and the recognition and treatment of emergency reactions to vaccines, HHS said. They also must have a current certificate in basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

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