Pharmacists should have priority status in vaccine distribution, pharmacy groups say

A letter signed by APhA and 12 other pharmacy organizations urged the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) to prioritize the COVID-19 vaccination of pharmacists and pharmacy staff and to prominently include pharmacists in plans for the allocation and distribution for the COVID-19 vaccine. The letter was addressed to a NASEM special committee tasked with developing an overarching framework to assist domestic and global policymakers in planning for equitable allocation of vaccines against the virus.

The draft framework places pharmacists in “tier 2,” behind physicians and other providers placed in tier 1. As frontline health care workers who have served continuously throughout the pandemic across practice settings, pharmacy staff safety should be equally prioritized, the groups said. Delaying COVID-19 vaccination for pharmacy staff jeopardizes patient access.

“Pharmacies and pharmacists in all practice settings are essential frontline health care providers and have been providing COVID-19 and related patient care since the coronavirus first appeared in the United States,” said APhA CEO Scott J. Knoer, MS, PharmD, FASHP, in a testimony submitted to the NASEM special committee.

The letter also warns that vaccination delays also threaten pharmacists’ ability to contribute to widespread vaccination efforts.

Pharmacists across all practice settings are skilled immunizers, accessible to vulnerable and underserved populations, and trusted in their communities; they also already collaborate with public health entities and other providers, the letter read. Ensuring that patients can receive one or more COVID-19 vaccines will be an all-hands-on-deck effort, and licensed pharmacists and pharmacies are natural partners in achieving vaccine goals.

The pharmacy groups also advise funding for pharmacies and pharmacists to provide community-based education and outreach programs to overcome vaccine hesitancy.

Along with APhA, the letter was signed by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education, American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, American College of Clinical Pharmacy, Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy, American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists, Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association, National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations, National Association of Specialty Pharmacy, National Community Pharmacists Association, and National Pharmaceutical Association.