The evolving role of pharmacists

Pharmacists may very well be the unsung heroes of healthcare. In reality, they play a critical role in providing access to medications as well as administering care. Recently, their role has become even more important.

Here’s a look at two of the changes that have taken place, and what they mean for consumers:

Administering childhood immunizations.
Last summer, HHS made it possible for pharmacists to administer FDA-approved vaccinations to children ages 3-18, under certain conditions, during the COVID-19 emergency.

  • What this means for consumers: During the pandemic, immunization rates have dropped. One of the reasons for this trend is that parents are likely trying to limit their children’s potential exposure to COVID-19 and are therefore less inclined to make a well visit to the doctor’s office. The new regulations mean that children can receive their vaccines at alternate locations.
  • What comes next: There are currently some hurdles that may hinder the success of this initiative. For example, few pharmacies are enrolled in the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program–which healthcare providers need in order to receive payment for administering vaccines. Over half of all children in the US are eligible to receive vaccines through this program, including Medicaid-eligible, uninsured, or underinsured populations. Without greater participation in the VFC program, pharmacists are limited on the impact they can make in childhood immunization rates.

Prescribing authority.
As of August 2020, 13 states allow pharmacists to prescribe contraceptives without consulting a physician.

  • What this means for consumers: While each state has its own regulations and restrictions, these statutes could play a significant role in increasing access to these medications.
  • What comes next: This year, Florida granted pharmacists the ability to screen for and treat minor, non-chronic health conditions. As we continue to battle COVID-19, we may see more states adopting or expanding prescriptive authority in pharmacies.

2021 is poised to be another big year for pharmacy staff. Pharmacies around the nation are hiring thousands of pharmacy team members to help administer the COVID-19 vaccine. Could these steps lead to additional opportunities for these highly trained professionals to help expand access to healthcare?

At Abarca, we believe that empowering pharmacists is critical in providing a better experience. And we will continue to monitor and update our partners on what comes next.

This blog was written by Tony Pérez, Clinical Pharmacist at Abarca.

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