The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) opposes today’s announcement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) authorizing state-licensed pharmacists to order and administer all vaccines to children and adolescents ages 3-18 years.
“This move is incredibly misguided. In the middle of a pandemic, what families are looking for is reassurance and clinical guidance from the doctors they trust most to care for their children: pediatricians,” said AAP President Sally Goza, MD, FAAP. “Pediatricians’ offices are open and safe. We have all necessary childhood and adolescent vaccines in stock with trained medical professionals who can administer them. We know that the best, safest place for children to get vaccinated is in their medical home.”
Creating a new vaccine system is not only unnecessary, but it will not provide children with the same level of optimal medical care they receive from the pediatrician who knows the child’s medical history. Most children and adolescents receive vaccines as part of routine well-child check-ups, when other important health care is provided, including developmental and mental health screenings, counseling about nutrition and injury-prevention, and chronic disease management. Conversations about immunizations are part of those visits, and can be tailored to respond to parents’ unique questions.
Given how few pharmacies participate as Vaccines for Children providers – a federal program that provides vaccines at no cost to children who are Medicaid-eligible, uninsured, underinsured, or American Indian or Alaska Native – today’s announcement only widens the health inequities children have faced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Data show that the Vaccines for Children program has increased vaccination rates across all races, ethnicities and income groups, and reduced racial and ethnic disparities.
“This unprecedented expansion of pharmacies’ ability to administer vaccines to children is not a solution to the vaccine hesitancy that is driving down rates of childhood immunizations in the U.S.,” Dr. Goza said. “Many parents have questions about their children’s vaccines, and pediatricians are ready to talk with them. It’s what we do, every day, one-on-one with thousands of parents, as part of the long-term trusting relationships that families have with their physicians.”
Today’s action supersedes state laws governing the scope of pharmacists’ ability to administer vaccines, using the COVID-19 pandemic as justification to make policy change that goes well beyond care related to COVID-19. Many states currently restrict pharmacists from administering vaccines to children of any age or limit the age range or type of vaccine that can be administered by a pharmacist.
“Now more than ever, parents trust their children’s pediatrician,” Dr. Goza said. “Rather than create an unnecessary alternative method to deliver immunizations to children, our federal government should invest in the one we have: pediatricians.”
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