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Pharmacy Leaders Urge Lawmakers to Preserve Emergency Vaccine Waivers

September 20, 2021

During the pandemic, Pennsylvanians have benefited from easy and safe access to COVID-19 vaccines at pharmacies in their communities.

On Monday, the House Professional Licensure Committee heard testimony from pharmacy vaccine providers and others in the health care community about the ways COVID-19 emergency waivers have improved access to vaccines. The hearing comes as lawmakers begin to determine their next steps for critical COVID-19 emergency waivers and flexibilities that are set to expire September 30.

HAP joins organizations throughout Pennsylvania supporting the extension of emergency flexibilities that have improved access to vaccines. These emergency waivers have allowed pharmacists in Pennsylvania to:

  • Provide flu vaccinations to individuals ages 3 years and up
  • Administer the COVID-19 vaccine without an order from a licensed prescriber or a protocol authorized by a physician, so long as it’s done according to emergency use authorization standards
  • Delegate vaccine authority to others including pharmacy technicians and interns—under direct supervision of a licensed pharmacist and other licensed health care professionals whose scope of practice includes the administration of injectables

These regulatory waivers allow pharmacy staff to work at the top of their licenses and support front line health care workers, said Dr. Alfred L'Altrelli, senior director of pharmacy, at UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside.

“As a member of a multi-disciplinary health care team, we help each other, and we need to be enabled to continue to provide this help to our nursing and physician counterparts through providing vaccines,” Dr. L'Altrelli said.

The waiver extension is particularly important with the convergence of flu season, the potential COVID-19 vaccine approval for children, the rollout of booster doses, and health care staffing challenges, he said.

Professionals representing both the pharmacist and physician communities expressed the need to improve real-time, user friendly vaccination information in electronic health records. They also discussed concerns about continuity of care and the role of pharmacies for childhood vaccines.

HAP supports legislation—such as House Bill 1535 and Senate Bill 511—that continues access to vaccines at pharmacies.

HAP urges everyone to learn more about the ways hospitals, patients, and our communities benefit from COVID-19 emergency waivers and flexibilities. Last week, HAP launched an online guide to waivers and flexibilities with additional resources, including a list of pending legislation to support as lawmakers return this week.

For more information, contact Heather Tyler, vice president, state legislative advocacy.