Pharmacy Choice and Access Now (PCAN), a nationwide coalition of consumers, local businesses and pharmacists committed to preserving quality and affordable health care, today thanked Governor Rick Scott for signing the Vaccine Access Act into law late Friday. The new law allows Florida pharmacists to vaccinate adults against pneumonia and shingles.
“We are pleased to see our state legislators and the Governor coming together on legislation to increase access to pneumonia and shingles vaccinations for adults in Florida,” said Michael Jackson, executive vice president and CEO of the Florida Pharmacy Association and member of PCAN. “By allowing pharmacists to administer these important vaccines, the new law makes it easier for adults – and seniors, in particular – to protect themselves against these dangerous and in some cases life-threatening illnesses.”
According to a 2010 Issue Brief compiled by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Trust for America’s Health and The Infectious Diseases Society of America, approximately 36,000 Americans die of the seasonal flu, 5,000 die from pneumonia, and more than one million adults get shingles each year. Some of these deaths could be prevented by increasing immunization rates among adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), immunizations are one of the safest and most cost-effective ways to prevent many illnesses.
“In a time when elected officials are deeply divided over issues important to all Floridians, it is encouraging to see Florida lawmakers agree on efforts to conserve scarce health-care dollars, improve the health of Floridians 50+, and make vaccines more convenient for Floridians of all generations, said Jeff Johnson, AARP Florida State Director.
Like all other states, Florida already permits qualified and certified pharmacists to administer influenza vaccines. With the new law (HB 509), Florida joins 45 other states that allow pharmacists to administer vaccines for pneumonia and 40 states that allow pharmacists to administer Zostavax for shingles.
“Most Floridians visit a pharmacy once a month or more, making pharmacies a convenient one-stop option for prescription medications, pharmacy counseling, and immunizations,” said Bill Mincy, BPharm, vice president of business development of PPSC, and the national board chair of PCAN. “We are pleased so many of our elected officials agree that convenient access to immunizations should be expanded.”
Already, immunization rates against the seasonal flu have increased throughout the country in the five years pharmacists have been allowed to administer vaccines, and hospitalizations for flu have decreased during that same time period. The Vaccine Access Act is expected to increase vaccination rates against pneumonia and shingles across the state.
The Vaccine Access Act, sponsored by Ana Rivas Logan (R-Miami) and Sen. Steve Oelrich (R- Gainesville), was approved in the Florida House of Representatives by unanimous vote. The State Senate passed the measure by a vote of 36 – 1.
PCAN applauds the efforts of Governor Scott and others for seeing this important legislation through, on behalf of Florida’s seniors and other adults.