APhA coronavirus watch: CDC releases updated vaccination guidance

CDC released revised vaccination guidance on June 9 that will help pharmacists and other immunization providers administer vaccines to patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. This updated guidance should be viewed along with specific guidance CDC issued for pharmacies last month.

CDC acknowledged the drop in routine vaccinations due to the COVID-19 crisis and said that “ensuring that routine vaccination is maintained or reinitiated during the COVID-19 pandemic is essential for protecting individuals and communities from vaccine-preventable diseases and outbreaks.” This is especially true for the upcoming influenza season. The agency goes on to say in the guidance that “influenza vaccination will be paramount to reduce the impact of respiratory illnesses in the population and resulting burdens on the health care system during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

According to CDC, immunization providers should focus influenza vaccination efforts on certain individuals such as essential health care workers (including pharmacy staff), people with an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and people who are at high risk for influenza complications. 

Overall, CDC encourages immunization providers to assess a patient’s vaccination status and to vaccinate when both pharmacist and patient are comfortable. Additionally, patients need to be screened for fever and COVID-19 symptoms. If either is present, vaccination should be postponed until the patient no longer needs to be isolated. Patients coming into the pharmacy should wear a cloth face mask if they are over 2 years old. Pharmacists and pharmacy staff need to wear a medical face mask at all times and eye protection based on the level of community transmission as outlined in any local guidance. The CDC guidance also discusses physical distancing, respiratory and hand hygiene, and surface decontamination. The key message is “vaccinate” in accordance with local practice procedures and guidelines.

The guidance is expected to be updated as the pandemic evolves.