Through their mobilization to administer testing and vaccinations, retail pharmacies have been on the front lines of the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now the industry is rallying to translate the vital role it is playing during the crisis into a more expansive one in the nation’s healthcare system going forward.
“Pharmacies have really shown what they can do, and have really delivered during the pandemic,” said Douglas Hoey, CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association, citing the fact that more than 80 million vaccines — about a quarter of the total of vaccines given nationally — have been administered in pharmacies.
Now the NCPA, along with others in the industry, is seeking to make permanent some of the additional authorizations around vaccinations and testing that were granted on an emergency basis during the pandemic. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services authorized pharmacists to order and administer COVID-19 tests, and to leverage pharmacy technicians for COVID-19 testing, without state or local restrictions. In addition, HHS is also expanding the ability for pharmacy teams to provide immunizations to children more comprehensively.
Retailers can also benefit from having the quality of their services validated by a third-party accreditor, such as The Compliance Team, Canally said. The company has added certification for pharmacies that do point-of-care testing and COVID testing, as well as immunizations, which expanded to include pediatric immunizations as many retail pharmacies were unaccustomed to vaccinating children, she explained.
NCPA’s Hoey said that thanks to the expansion of COVID testing during the pandemic, more pharmacists also have become interested in point-of-care testing. NCPA offers a training program in point-of-care testing, he said, and has seen a “huge increase” in pharmacists taking the program.