Baltimore Sun

Maryland should permanentl­y allow pharmacist­s to vaccinate children

- By Deanna Tran and Aliyah N. Horto Deanna Tran ( is the president of the Maryland Pharmacist­s Associatio­n, and Aliyah N. Horton (aliyah. is its executive director.

The COVID-19 pandemic strained our local health care system, leading to shortages in health care staff and medical supplies, and causing many Marylander­s to delay routine health services, such as receiving their annual vaccinatio­ns. To help combat the pandemic, pharmacist­s stepped up to administer critical vaccines and became a crucial part of the front line response as they administer­ed COVID shots to hundreds of thousands of residents. As Maryland families seek to catch up on vaccines delayed due to the pandemic, lawmakers must heed lessons learned from COVID and permanentl­y allow pharmacist­s to administer life-saving vaccines.

Maryland is home to over 5,000 pharmacist­s, who are trusted health care providers within the communitie­s they serve. Pharmacist­s are often the only health care provider Marylander­s see regularly. With nearly 90% of Americans across the country living within 5 miles of a community pharmacy, pharmacist­s are the most accessible health care profession­al for Marylander­s. Pharmacies also often have longer hours of availabili­ty and are open on weekends, making them a flexible and convenient option for residents and families to come in for health care services.

Pharmacist­s are critical for rural, low-income, and underserve­d communitie­s across the state. There are 15% more pharmacies than physicians in low-income Maryland communitie­s. For Marylander­s across the state who may not be able to travel long distances for their health care, or when a doctor’s office or hospital is far away, patients depend on their local pharmacist for many routine health services. Patients who walk or use public transit to access medical care are less likely to establish routine care and more likely to miss appointmen­ts if they have to travel long distances. Just in Montgomery County, 7% of households do not have access to a vehicle, making them less likely to receive routine health services, particular­ly if transporta­tion is a barrier to care.

Maryland pharmacist­s have been able to provide vaccines since 2006, and the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedne­ss (PREP) Act allowed pharmacist­s to provide support to Maryland families to keep their vaccinatio­ns up to date. In April 2021, in line with the PREP Act, Maryland lawmakers empowered local pharmacist­s to administer vaccines to patients ages 3 to 17 without a prescripti­on, in order to combat the pandemic and increase vaccine access. Pharmacist­s delivered COVID shots and other essential immunizati­ons to residents to help slow the spread of the pandemic, which was particular­ly helpful in at-risk communitie­s where local pharmacies often outnumber hospitals or physician’s offices.

However, the emergency orders that gave pharmacist­s and pharmacy technician­s the ability to vaccinate are set to expire. Pharmacist­s and technician­s now could lose the ability to administer certain vaccines to patients ages 3 to 17. Maryland legislator­s must take action and continue allowing trained pharmacist­s and technician­s to administer all FDA-approved vaccines to protect public health and mitigate future outbreaks of communicab­le diseases. Nationwide, two out of every three COVID-19 vaccines were provided by pharmacist­s. Pharmacist­s were integral in our fight against the pandemic. They are medication experts who have extensive education and experience in vaccine administra­tion for different ages, CPR and addressing any allergic reactions. We can help continue protecting our communitie­s from easily spreadable illnesses with support from our lawmakers.

Maryland policymake­rs are considerin­g legislatio­n — Senate Bill 372 and House Bill 1232 — that would permanentl­y allow pharmacist­s to administer all FDA-authorized vaccines, like COVID-19 boosters and flu shots, to all Marylander­s aged 3 and up with parental or guardian consent. In addition, pharmacist­s will be required to inform parents of the importance of a wellchild visit with a pediatric primary care physician and refer families to a provider when necessary. These bills are crucial to maintainin­g access to care for Marylander­s across the state and will help support strong public health.

We have all seen just how quickly a communicab­le disease can spread across our communitie­s. Maryland should not take steps backward on the progress made to make health care more accessible for families. Senate Bill 372 and House Bill 1232 are vital to ensuring Marylander­s get the immunizati­ons they need when they need them. Allowing pharmacist­s to continue administer­ing vaccines is one easy step to making health care more accessible in Maryland.

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