Flu shots have become a mainstay for pharmacies, with 18.4 percent of the vaccinations now delivered at places like Walgreen’s and CVS. The number of pharmacists trained to deliver vaccines has boomed, from 40,000 in 2007 to 150,000 in 2011.
Given that pharmacists already deliver flu shots, should they be giving other vaccines, for conditions like shingles? Or whooping cough? Amanda Schaffer looks at the regulatory battle over what health care pharmacists can and cannot deliver:
If you’re looking for a flu shot, you can walk into a Walgreens or CVS or Rite Aid in any state and get one from a pharmacist. For the vaccine against the blistering skin condition shingles, however, you can go to a drugstore in San Francisco but not in Sioux Falls, S.D. And for the whooping cough vaccine, your options include Nashville, Tenn., but not North Conway, N.H.; Brookline, Mass., but not Brooklyn, N.Y.; Gainesville, Ga., but not Gainesville, Fla.
In New York a 2008 bill was written to authorize pharmacists to give all CDC-recommended adult vaccines, but after much wrangling, everything but flu was axed. (Even then, the Medical Society of the State of New York opposed the law.) This year, state legislators tried again, passing a law, taking effect this week, that allows New York pharmacists to administer the shingles vaccine to people who have a prescription from a doctor or nurse practitioner. But pharmacists still can’t offer the whooping cough vaccine.
As Schaffer reports, doctors’ groups tend to oppose expansions of pharmacist vaccination powers. They tend to argue to make two arguments in this arena. First, pharmacists don’t have the right training to deliver vaccinations. Second, when patients access care at a pharmacy it impedes the physician’s ability to build a relationship; its harder to manage your patient’s care, after all, when its being delivered at a CVS down the street.
At the same time, retail looks to be the way of the future in health care. Pharmacies keep building out the health services they offer; patients turn continue to turn up in growing numbers. The convenience factor looks to be pushing the system in this direction – even as big actors in the health care space push back against it.