The National Association of Chain Drug Stores today unveiled a new report highlighting the key role pharmacies can play as the country starts to reopen. The report, "Pharmacies: A Vital Partner in Reopening America," addresses issues relevant to NACDS chain and associate members, and defines specific actions to advance COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, and to prepare well for the deployment of treatments and vaccines when available.
Looking forward to the availability of COVID-19 medications and vaccines, NACDS cites a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that found retail pharmacies help to vaccinate 80% of the population seven weeks sooner during a pandemic than otherwise would be possible. Accessibility remains a pharmacy hallmark, with 90% of Americans living within five miles of one.
The report highlights a June 24 meeting of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices – at which the Committee could take one action that would have the effect of permitting pharmacists in half of the states to provide a forthcoming COVID-19 vaccine. The NACDS report also describes a series of additional recommendations for a well-planned vaccination program in all states.
On the subject of testing, the NACDS report identifies further policy barriers that must be removed; urges the inclusion of pharmacist-provided testing in state Medicaid programs; encourages states to facilitate partnerships among pharmacies, local businesses and public health officials; and describes coverage and reimbursement issues that are essential to scale and sustain testing programs.
Regarding surveillance and contact tracing recommendations, NACDS urges a national program through private and public partnerships that creates a single access point for data; demonstrates the importance of existing models related to hepatitis C and HIV; and emphasizes the importance of modern infrastructure.
“Community pharmacies should remain a critical centerpiece of the COVID-19 pandemic response and future mitigation strategies. Pharmacies continue to collaborate with state and local public health officials on pandemic surveillance and sharing critical information to inform state health and economic decisions. As our nation moves forward, we proffer that federal and state governments should enhance engagement with pharmacies across the response continuum from scaling community testing to executing a national pandemic immunization plan,” said NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson.
The report urges the administration and Congress, as well as governors, to take steps to make sure pharmacists and pharmacies are used to provide essential services and support the COVID-19 response nationally. “States can further leverage these steps by partnering with community pharmacies to the benefit of their citizens, especially those who are socio-economically vulnerable and medically underserved; and modernizing public health infrastructures by removing any remaining, unwarranted barriers to pharmacy care, coverage and payment," the report said.
Finally, Anderson said that NACDS will leverage the report in the coming weeks and months as a "powerful catalyst to continue to tell the story of your truly amazing company and team members, and to help change for the better the story of COVID-19 for the American people."