February 12, 2013

Bill would expand vaccines pharmacists can deliver

Charles Oliver

— Georgia residents routinely get their flu vaccines from pharmacists. But state law currently bans pharmacists from providing most other vaccines without a doctor’s prescription. That could change if a bill introduced by one Dalton legislator becomes law.

Senate Bill 85 would allow pharmacists and nurses to give vaccinations to adults. It is sponsored by state Sen. Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton.

“It does three things. It improves access to care. In places where our doctor population is not what we would want it to be it gives people the opportunity to get their recommended vaccination schedule,” Bethel said. “It improves public health. Just two weeks ago the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new report showing adult vaccination rates in the United States are too low, and that certainly applies to Georgia. And finally, it can help reduce the cost of health care, both by improving health and because administering vaccinations in the pharmacy setting is lower.”

Bethel says pharmacists and nurses would have to administer vaccines under protocols  developed by a physician, just as they currently do flu vaccines.

“That is to say a doctor who lives in the health district where the pharmacy is located would have to sign an agreement saying ‘These are the rules. This is how you are supposed to do this. These are the questions you have to ask.’ Whatever that physician feels is appropriate,” Bethel said.

State Rep. Bruce Broadrick, R-Dalton, is himself a pharmacist, and he says those in that profession welcome the bill.

“We are doing these immunizations now. We are just doing them with a prescription, so it really doesn’t change our practice at all,” he said. “Immunizing pharmacists have to be trained. We have 18 hours of continuing education in order to become an immunizing pharmacist. In addition to that, we have an annual blood-borne pathogens update we have to comply with. We have to be current with our CPR and cardiac resuscitation certification.”

Broadrick says immunizing pharmacists must also register with the Georgia Immunization Registry, which requires them to register all immunizations as well as allows them to check the immunization record of anyone they vaccinate.

Broadrick said some pharmacists choose not to deliver vaccinations and SB 85 would not require them to.