On Tuesday, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and 93 other patient, public health, state and national pharmacy groups signed a letter to the Biden administration urging “formal clarification from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on potential expiration of pharmacy personnel flexibilities granted during the pandemic.”
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to the authorizations granted under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act and other key federal actions, pharmacies, pharmacists and pharmacy teams have been able to play a significant role in delivering equitable access to testing, vaccination and therapeutics, including the following for example:
- Pharmacists and pharmacy staff have administered more than 250 million COVID-19 vaccinations to date;
- Approximately two of every three COVID-19 vaccine doses are provided at a pharmacy;
- More than 40% of those vaccinated at pharmacies were from racial and ethnic minority groups;
- More than 40% of children ages 5 to 11 years old who received a COVID-19 vaccination did so at a pharmacy;
- Half of pharmacy COVID-19 vaccination sites are located in areas with high social vulnerability;
- Pharmacists and pharmacy staff have provided more than 11,000 mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinics across the country;
- Pharmacies have provided more than 45 million COVID-19 tests across more than 20,000 testing sites nationwide, and 70% of such sites are in areas with moderate to severe social vulnerability; and
- Pharmacies and retail health clinics provide access to COVID-19 antivirals at thousands of locations nationwide.
A poll conducted by Morning Consult and commissioned by NACDS found that 70% of Americans support extending the policies that have allowed them to access essential services from their pharmacies during the pandemic. Additionally, those who received a COVID-19 vaccination from a pharmacist or pharmacy staff in a pharmacy are even more supportive: 85% support extending these policies.
“The[se] authorities granted have been instrumental to supporting the role of pharmacists, pharmacy staff and pharmacies to expand access and foster equity throughout the pandemic,” the groups noted in the letter.
“Clarification from HHS that pharmacy personnel flexibilities granted through the PREP Act will remain in place through Oct. 1, 2024, as established for other healthcare providers, is essential for effective, proactive community planning and to support certainty for public access. Current and ongoing ambiguities leave pharmacy personnel, their community and public health partners and the American people they serve in an untenable position,” according to the letter.