As unvaccinated individuals remain at risk and new COVID-19 variants continue to emerge, getting “shots in arms” remains a priority in the state of Pennsylvania. One of the groups that has been essential and most effective in this process is pharmacists.
The Pharmacist COVID-19 Waiver
Thanks to a waiver granted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, pharmacists have been able to independently order and administer the vaccine, expanding access and increasing immunization rates throughout the Commonwealth. This flexibility has been particularly important in rural and underserved areas where many Pennsylvanians live within five miles of a pharmacy, making pharmacists some of the health care system’s most accessible providers.
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Why the Waiver Is Important
On Sept. 30, 2021, all of the waivers and flexibilities that have been issued under Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 emergency declaration will expire. If an extension is not enacted through legislation by Oct. 1, 2021, pharmacists will no longer be able to vaccinate any person at any age against COVID-19.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the pharmacy community has contributed to the decline in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. The extension of the pharmacy waiver would not only strengthen public health infrastructure but would expand access to neighborhood-based health care during this critical time.
Where UPMC Stands
UPMC strongly believes that in order for a vaccination program to be successful, pharmacists must have the ability to vaccinate. Between December 2020 and August 2021, UPMC pharmacists have facilitated the administration of over 500,000 vaccines to patients through pharmacy-led hospital and community clinics. Pharmacists are well positioned to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates in the months to come, and we should give them the ability to do so.