What qualifications do healthcare workers in the US need to administer vaccines?
Who has the power to administer vaccines? The short answer is: a variety of health professionals –– some trained, some deputised by states. Prior to COVID-19, states would determine which professionals could do the administering. In some cases, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians would be able to.
“But with COVID, it’s all hands on deck for vaccination,” Claire Hannan, MPH, the executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers.”
With vaccines approved and becoming more widely available, NBC news reported that optometrists and dentists were pushing for the authority to immunise patients during routine eye exams and dental cleanings. These professionals argued that their help would “take some pressure off hospitals and doctors’ officers.” It could also bring some extra money into their practices.
According to the American Public Health Association, professionals who will be able to administer the COVID-19 vaccine include: Nurses, nurse practitioners, doctors, students in health professions, physician assistants, pharmacy technicians, veterinarians (who routinely administer shots to animals), dentists, medics and EMTs.
Of course, the right training is required. All medical doctors and licensed nurses in the US receive this training. Many medical technicians and aides also hold this authority. To get involved, several pharmacists are eager to qualify.
Health professional associations, such as the National Pharmacy Technician Association (NPTA), have been providing training programmes to get their members ready.
“While pharmacy technicians have been authorized to administer vaccines in a handful of states prior to this, overall, it will be a new scope of practice for many of them,” Mike Johnston, CPhT, CEO of NPTA, tells Verywell.
Pharmacy technicians and interns have been authorised to administer vaccines under the PREP (the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness) Act.
This act will vastly expand the availability of trained professionals who can administer vaccinations to the hundreds of millions of people who will be getting the shot, says Johnston, whose association is providing in-person training to as many as 200,000 pharmacy technicians. Pharmacy technicians will frequently be the professionals giving the vaccine in long-term care facilities and chain pharmacies in the US such as Walgreens and CVS.
Any pharmacists interested in administering vaccinations should check with their state pharmacy association and medical board to get the qualification criteria. Every state, along with the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories, allows a pharmacist to become a licensed and certified immunizer. Requirements for doing so vary in each place, however.
Most states accept successful completion of the Pharmacy-Based Immunization Delivery certification course developed by the American Pharmacist Association as a baseline qualification. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists also offers web-based education focused on immunising hospital patients and long-term care facility residents.
The World Health Organisation has collaborated with scientists, businesses and global health organisations to speed up the pandemic response and facilitate equitable access and distribution of approved vaccines. In collaboration with UNICEF, the COVID-19 vaccination training for health workers package was developed for frontline health workers all over the world.
The package consists of six modules, which include video lectures, quizzes, job aids, interactive exercises and downloadable presentations with the available information.