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A pharmacist giving a vaccine.

NCPA, ASCP urge governors to deploy independent pharmacists in state COVID-19 vaccine programs


With many states struggling to immunize senior citizens and other vulnerable populations against COVID-19, two leading pharmacy groups, The National Community Pharmacists Association and the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists on Tuesday sent a joint letter to the nation’s governors, urging them to enlist independent long-term care pharmacies to swing into action quickly.

“Independent long-term care pharmacists have the experience, specialized knowledge, and, most importantly, the relationships to bring the vaccine to the people who need it most,” said Chad Worz, chief executive of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, whose members specialize in long-term care. “Many states are struggling to serve long-term care populations. We are urging governors to take advantage of the independent long-term care pharmacists who are ready to vaccinate and are already serving these populations for their medication needs.”

“The states that are most effective right now are states that have engaged community pharmacies in their vaccine programs," said Doug Hoey, NCPA CEO.

Hoey added, "We need to immunize tens of millions of seniors, and we need to do it quickly. It’s too much to expect just two chain pharmacies to meet that challenge, no matter how big they are. Unlike the chains, many community pharmacists don’t have a learning curve when it comes to serving these populations. They’ve been doing it for decades, and they should be doing it now in every state.”

The federal government contracted with CVS and Walgreens to handle vaccine distribution in long-term care facilities. 

Hoey and Worz noted "That effort has been bumpy according to numerous public reports. But there is an alternative, which is to use the new Federal Transfer Program and allocate vaccines to independent pharmacies."

“By requesting a transfer, states will be able to deploy all existing local and LTC pharmacies that have signed up with the CDC, which is critical to ensuring vaccine access in rural, isolated, and smaller skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, and congregate care environments,” they say in their letter.

“Currently, the large national pharmacy chains (CVS, Walgreens) have vaccinated a critical mass of larger SNFs, but there are still thousands of federally governed SNFs and close to 37,800 state run ALFs that require inoculations. By states engaging in the LTC jurisdiction transfer process, states will be able to utilize the pharmacists already in these care environments to vaccinate residents and patients.”

For obvious reasons, long-term care residents are among the first Americans eligible for the vaccine. Whether and when the rest of the country can be vaccinated depends on immunizing this population as quickly as possible.

“This is critical to vulnerable populations, but it’s also critical for the economy,” said Hoey. “We can’t get back to normal until most Americans are vaccinated.”

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