Qualified pharmacists serving long-term care facilities will now be able to administer COVID-19 vaccines to residents and staff members once the serum is ready, under new guidance announced Wednesday by federal health officials. 

The new guidance, announced Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services, comes under the Public Readiness Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act. It authorizes state-licensed pharmacists to order and administer COVID-19 vaccinations to people age 3 or older once they meet certain requirements.

“Allowing pharmacists to order and administer COVID-19 vaccines will greatly expand convenient access for the American people,” Admiral Brett Giroir, M.D., HHS assistant secretary for health, said in a statement. 

The vaccine must be authorized or licensed by the Food and Drug Administration in order for pharmacists to administer the medication. The vaccination must also be ordered and administered according to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) COVID-19 vaccine recommendation, HHS explained. 

Other requirements licensed pharmacists must satisfy include: completing a practical training program of at least 20 hours that is approved by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), having a current certificate in basic CPR and completing a minimum of two hours of ACPE-approved, immunization-related continuing pharmacy education during each state licensing period. 

Licensed pharmacists also must comply with recordkeeping and reporting requirements of the jurisdiction in which he or she administers vaccines and with any applicable requirements as set forth in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 vaccination provider agreement, and any other federal requirements that apply to the administration of coronavirus vaccines.

The federal government last week also used the PREP Act to expand coverage to allow licensed healthcare practitioners to use point-of-care COVID-19 tests for screening purposes in congregate settings, which includes nursing homes, assisted living, long-term care and other facilities where people congregate to receive care.