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Mar 04 2021

Biden Administration Urged to Enlisted Retired Pharmacists for COVID-19 Vaccinations

In mid-February, President Joe Biden traveled to a Pfizer manufacturing facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he addressed employees engaged in manufacturing the company's COVID-19 vaccines. As part of his remarks, President Biden discussed his administration's efforts to procure additional vaccine supplies and increase the number of individuals working towards delivering vaccines to patients.

"We deployed more vaccinators, the people who put the vaccine in your arm," the President said. "We're now making it possible for retired doctors and nurses to come back and, under law, administer these shots. We've put new vaccinators in the field. These include over 800 medical personnel from our Commission Corps at the Department of Health and Human Services, and personnel from the Federal Emergency management Agency – FEMA – the Defense Department, the National Guard. We're literally lining up thousands of vaccinators because it's one thing to have the vaccine, and it's very different to get it in someone's arms."

Hardworking pharmacists and pharmacies are at the core of a federal initiative that will eventually include as many as 40,000 drugstores and grocery stores, with the capacity to administer 100 million doses in 30 days, according to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.

Pharmacies' efforts would get a significant boost by enlisting the services of retired pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. A group of ten pharmacy associations wrote to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in early February, seeking permission for pharmacists and technicians who left the workforce within the past five years to be allowed to administer COVID-19 vaccines. 

The letter praised the agency's prior decision to amend the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP) to allow retired doctors and nurses to administer vaccines, but expressed concern that pharmacists and pharmacy technicians were not included. "Recently inactive pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are ready and able to help meet President Biden's goal of achieving 100 million Americans vaccinated in his first 100 days," the letter said. "We urge you to expand the Fifth Amendment to the PREP Act and include them in the authorization."

The letter pointed out that since every state allows pharmacists to administer vaccinations to patients, pharmacists are well-qualified for the COVID-19 vaccine administration. For one thing, pharmacists played an important role in vaccinating Americans during the H1N1 pandemic and currently administer roughly one-third of annual influenza shots.

"Recently retired pharmacist and pharmacy technicians are ready, willing and able to contribute to this effort," noted Ilisa Bernstein, APhA senior vice president of pharmacy practice and government affairs.

Signatories to the letter, which is now under consideration by HHS, include the American Pharmacists Association, American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy, American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists, the Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, National Association of Community Pharmacists, and the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations.