• Orders for childhood vaccination by doctors' offices dropped amid the pandemic
  • Now, the Department of Health and Human Services has allowed pharmacists to administer the shots
  • This directive was allowed in all 50 states

The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials announced pharmacists are now allowed to administer childhood vaccinations in all 50 states.

The HHS released a new directive Wednesday, paving the way for pharmacists in all the U.S. states to administer vaccines to children to prevent future outbreaks of preventable diseases like measles.

The directive came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed in May orders for childhood vaccination by doctors' offices dropped in late March and early April as they had fewer patients or their offices remained closed. This raised concerns that vaccination rates might also drop. With the new directive, the HHS hopes it can help stop vaccination rates from plummeting during the ongoing health crisis.

State-licensed pharmacies can now vaccinate kids even without a doctor's prescription, although pharmacists must undergo and complete the required training program first.

The directive, however, does not permit pharmacists to administer shots to children below three years of age. According to HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Brett Giroir, some of the crucial childhood vaccinations are administered to babies and toddlers. Unfortunately, pharmacists do not yet have the required training or medical support to give these doses to babies or toddlers.

HHS head Alex Azar opted to use his emergency powers as outlined in the Proclamation on Declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak signed by President Trump on March 13, 2020, to take this step. His directive temporarily preempts restrictions on pharmacists administering such vaccinations in 22 states beginning this fall.

child vaccination at pharmacy
child vaccination at pharmacy Angelo Esslinger - Pixabay

Azar said child vaccinations are important, particularly during the school season when preventable diseases like flu and measles strike. "Especially as we approach the school season, children must have easy access to the pediatric vaccinations to enable them to get back to school as schools reopen," the HHS head added.

The Trump administration is pushing for the reopening of schools and daycare centers even with the present threat of coronavirus infection. Federal officials say this is part of their effort to allow people to return to work and help resuscitate the economy. Many are, however, of the opinion that such a move may expose the kids to coronavirus infection, as was seen in a school in Georgia where an asymptomatic second-grader attended the first day of school, which led to the quarantining of the entire class including the teacher.

At present, 28 states allow pharmacists to vaccinate children. Meanwhile, laws in 22 other states limit such vaccinations, with three of these states prohibiting pharmacists from administering vaccines to any child, Associated Press reported.

However, on Wednesday, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement that criticized the HHS directive. According to Dr. Sally Goza, the president of the organization, their offices are safe and open and they also have all the required childhood and adolescent vaccines on hand with trained professionals who can safely deliver the shots.

"Rather than create an unnecessary alternative method to deliver immunizations to children, our federal government should invest in the one we have: pediatricians," Goza said.