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Update on COVID-19 Vaccine Guidance and Advocacy Efforts

By Paul Abramowitz posted 09-21-2020 15:05


Dear Colleagues,

Six months have passed since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and a tremendous amount of work remains to be done. I want to thank you for your commitment to serve patients, improve the delivery of care, and persevere throughout this public health emergency.

ASHP is working across multiple fronts with many stakeholder groups to identify solutions, share knowledge and evidence-based resources, and disseminate critical guidance in the fight against COVID-19.

COVID-19 Vaccine Leadership

ASHP recently issued 10 guiding principles for COVID-19 vaccine development, distribution, allocation, and mass immunization. Pharmacists, as experts in medication and vaccine use, have a deep understanding and best practice expertise in evidence-based clinical decisions, pandemic preparedness, and supply chain management. ASHP created the Principles for COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution, Allocation, and Mass Immunization to drive conversation and action among the medical and public policy communities to support an effective vaccine rollout plan.

ASHP was recently invited to share highlights from our vaccine principles during a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) listening session and to provide pharmacists’ perspectives on the NASEM’s draft discussion document, Preliminary Framework for Equitable Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccine. This initial draft places pharmacists in the second tier of NASEM’s vaccine allocation recommendations, which we consider unacceptable.

To support national public health efforts, ASHP believes, without question, that pharmacists must be authorized to administer anticipated COVID-19 vaccines. And like other frontline healthcare workers, pharmacists must be prioritized for vaccination and allocated ample supplies to accomplish this. ASHP’s comments to NASEM underscored the spectrum of medication use expertise within our membership and emphasized how frontline pharmacists are working alongside their interprofessional colleagues, directly caring for patients with COVID-19 or who have been exposed to the virus, as they meet patients’ chronic care needs.

ASHP also submitted formal comments on NASEM’s draft discussion document, both independently and in coordination with 12 other pharmacy organizations. The comments stress that pharmacists must be included in the first phase of vaccination campaigns to ensure safe and effective processes that lead to broad immunization, including the most vulnerable populations.

Making Progress

We’ve seen tremendous progress with our vaccine advocacy efforts. Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced its COVID-19 vaccine distribution strategy. The plan, developed in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Defense, includes a strategic distribution overview and an interim playbook for state, tribal, territorial, and local public health programs and their partners on how to plan and operationalize a COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

ASHP was very happy that the administration heard us and designated pharmacists and pharmacies as part of the critical infrastructure necessary for a successful COVID-19 vaccine plan. The HHS strategy also reflects many priorities in ASHP’s COVID-19 Vaccine Principles. This is an important step, but more work is needed on the details around ensuring pharmacists are among the frontline healthcare workers prioritized for vaccination.

ASHP released an initial response to the HHS plan, and we will share a full analysis in the coming days.

HHS also took the critical step in allowing qualified, licensed pharmacists to administer pediatric vaccines; licensed pharmacy interns may also do so under a pharmacist’s supervision. This announcement recognizes pharmacists’ vital contributions to our nation’s healthcare system. ASHP strongly applauds this action, and we will vigorously refute statements by organizations that oppose the decision.

HHS further recognized pharmacists’ role in effective vaccination campaigns by authorizing pharmacists to order and administer COVID-19 vaccines, when available, in all states. We are pleased to see policymakers take these actions as recommended by ASHP and our partners.

Now, we are advocating for Medicare to improve patient access to COVID-19 vaccines by paying pharmacists directly for vaccination services. Reimbursement for pharmacists’ vaccination services will be a key topic for members during the more than 100 congressional office visits taking place this week as part of ASHP’s Virtual Legislative Day.

As ASHP continues to influence comprehensive dissemination plans for COVID-19 vaccines, we are also preparing the pharmacy workforce for these critical efforts. Today, we launched a new COVID-19 Vaccine Assessment Tool that will help pharmacists and pharmacy technicians identify their readiness and preparedness for the COVID-19 vaccine. The self-assessment outlines seven key areas for pharmacist involvement in caring for patients who are receiving the COVID-19 vaccine(s). We also created a dedicated COVID-19 Vaccine webpage that includes tools, resources, and other support that I encourage you to utilize. ASHP continues to update and add tools to our COVID-19 Resource Center, including our COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing Chart and ASHP’s Assessment of Evidence for COVID-19-Related Treatments.

Thank you for being a member of ASHP and for everything you do for your patients and our profession during these very challenging times.