After compromise with docs, pharmacists will be allowed to provide vaccinations

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After a compromise between doctors and pharmacists, the Senate gave final approval Wednesday to a bill aimed at allowing Floridians to visit their neighborhood pharmacies to get vaccinations for pneumonia and shingles, reports Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida.

Senators voted 36-1 to approve the proposal (HB 509), which goes to Gov. Rick Scott. Pharmacists, who can already give flu shots, lobbied heavily to expand those powers, with Senate sponsor Steve Oelrich, R-Cross Creek, calling it the “access to vaccines” bill.

“This measure is a way to keep health care costs down — helping patients to receive preventative immunizations rather than expensive treatments,” said Bill Mincy, national board chairman of Pharmacy Choice & Access Now, a coalition that pushed for the bill.

Many physicians have long opposed such changes, arguing that pharmacists do not have adequate training to administer vaccines. But the Florida Medical Association worked out a compromise this year with pharmacy groups to allow the pneumonia and shingles shots.

Rebecca O’Hara, vice president of governmental affairs for the FMA, said the bill includes safeguards, such as only allowing pharmacists to give shingles shots if doctors write prescriptions.

Also, the bill would require pharmacists to take continuing-education courses that would be administered by a physicians’ association. Oelrich said pharmacists could only give the vaccinations to adults.

Prescriptions would not be needed for pneumonia shots and also are not required for flu shots.

Sen. Larcenia Bullard, D-Miami, was the only dissenting vote Wednesday. The House unanimously approved the measure last month.

Michael Jackson, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the Florida Pharmacy Association, issued a statement describing the bill as “common-sense policy.”

“We encourage Governor Scott to see this act as a cost-saving and life-saving measure that Floridians can immediately experience the benefits of,” Jackson said.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.