Image of female pharmacist arranging drugs on shelf

A pharmacy expert is hopeful a new White House push for vaccinations will empower long-term care pharmacists to play a continued role in COVID prevention and treatment.

“Our hope is that the federal government and Biden administration continue the practices pharmacists have employed during the emergency to not only address this continued need but also make them permanent for any future testing, treatment and vaccination needs,” Chad Worz, PharmD, BCGP, CEO of American Society of Consultant Pharmacists told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News Tuesday, hours after the White House announced a multi-pronged marketing and action plan to increase vaccinations ahead of several months of conditions that encourage influenza and coronavirus infection.

Worz said “the practices pharmacists have employed” include a number of flexibilities granted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid and Health and Human Services allowing pharmacists to order tests, therapeutics and vaccines, bill them to Medicare Part B, and set up the infrastructure for reporting to state immunization information systems. 

“These flexibilities in all sectors of pharmacy increase access and make our ability to respond to this pandemic and the next comprehensive and equitable,” he said.

“While COVID-19 is not the disruptive force it was when the President took office, the virus continues to evolve,” the announcement read. “COVID-19, flu, and other respiratory illnesses spread more quickly in the winter, as people gather indoors. As the weather gets colder, Americans must take action to stay protected.”

Nursing homes were listed among locations targeted for additional resources as the Department of Health & Human Services rolls out its #VaxxUpAmerica Family Vaccine Tour.

“As part of this tour, HHS will work with national and community-based organizations and others to reach families where they are with information on COVID-19 vaccines, and will host pop-up vaccination events and distribute toolkits at venues such as Head Start provider locations, nursing homes, and community health centers around the country,” the announcement said.

The country has the updated coronavirus and flu vaccines, said Worz, now it needs to raise awareness of them and provide them. In the latest CMS data on nursing homes, 39.8% of residents and 27.2% of staff nationally are up to date on the coronavirus vaccine.

“Pharmacists in long-term care have stepped up during the pandemic and collaborated in and, at times, led efforts to immunize and treat our older adult and medically complex individuals,” Worz said. “Pharmacists in long term care continue to support access to and provide these needed immunizations and treatments.”