Pharmacists continue to play a significant—and expanding—role in the fight against COVID-19. In early September, President Biden rolled out a plan to help the U.S. recover more quickly from the scourge of the novel coronavirus. The “Path Out of the Pandemic” plan recognized the critical work performed by community pharmacists over the past year and a half and carved out four central roles for them in the coming months.

Vaccines: With more employers and other organizations requiring vaccination or regular testing, a surge in individuals seeking vaccines is expected in the coming weeks—and many of them will find their way to community pharmacies.

Boosters: When the White House said that “booster shots will be free and widely available across 80,000 locations—from pharmacies to doctors’ offices to health centers,” community pharmacists began gearing up for another round of shots. Many pharmacists started giving boosters to immunocompromised persons in early September, as research indicated that a third jab significantly improved immune response in these patients. In mid-September, the FDA recommended a booster dose for everyone aged 65 years or older and individuals at high risk for severe infection as well as those with compromised immune systems who completed vaccinations 6 or more months ago.

Unlike the initial rollout, patients interested in getting a booster shot will be able to readily find available sites and make an appointment on the website, and those who used WhatsApp or texted 438829 to get vaccine information will get automatic updates on boosters. Help with getting booster shots is available in 150 languages at 1-800-232-0233. In many cases, patients also can make an appointment directly with a pharmacy.

Testing: The president’s plan also called for expanded access to free testing at retail pharmacy sites around the country through the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS’) free testing program. More than 10,000 pharmacies are expected to participate.

Antibody Therapies: Once again, HHS will amend the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act to enlarge the pool of healthcare professionals providing treatment to patients with COVID-19. With many hospitals across the nation reporting no beds available, waits of hours—or days—in the emergency department, and exhausted, overtaxed staff, the need to supplement medical providers has become urgent. The latest PREP expansion will allow pharmacists to administer monoclonal antibody therapy.

“Authorization for pharmacists to order and administer select COVID-19 therapeutics, including monoclonal antibody therapy, is an important measure that will save lives,” said National Community Pharmacists Association CEO B. Douglas Hoey. “The expansion of testing to 10,000 additional pharmacies is a potentially important measure, but it’s critical that patients can access their independent pharmacy for testing services. And, independent pharmacies are more than ready and able to administer millions of doses of the vaccine boosters once they are approved.

“As the president made clear, this fight isn’t over. We’re at a critical point and bold action is necessary. Independent pharmacists are in this fight until we defeat the virus.” 

The content contained in this article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Reliance on any information provided in this article is solely at your own risk.

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