Pediatricians say pharmacy vaccination waiver no replacement for regular checkups
SOUTH ROYALTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Coming soon, parents won’t have to make an appointment with a pediatrician to get thier child immunized. Vermont is going along with a federal waiver that allows all pharmacists permission to administer vaccines to kids under 18. Channel 3′s Christina Guessferd finds out why Vermont doctors worry the move that was meant to help, could actually cause harm.
“My kids get their vaccines as part of their annual physicals,” said Lauren Sivin of Tunbridge. She says her pediatrician is the central pillar for her kids' care. It’s at those regular wellness visits that her provider also checks her 5 and 2-year-old’s height, weight, vision, and developmental and emotional health. “For me, the whole process is really important, and I wouldn’t separate that from the rest of the care that my kids are getting.”
“What we really strive for is a medical home, where we follow these kids from birth to adulthood,” said Dr. Ashley Miller, a pediatrician at the South Royalton Health Center and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “By taking those vaccines out of the medical home, it’s just one more chance that we don’t have to help our families.”
Helping families keep up with important vaccines during the pandemic is the intention behind the directive from the federal Department of Health and Human Services, to allow pharmacies to administer vaccinations to kids ages three to 18 years in all 50 states. But Miller says she fears families might then skip the annual visit to the pediatrician.
“We definitely would miss some of those patients that really -- their family only comes in when it’s a vaccine visit, and they need to come in. Those kids would be at high risk for having mental health issues, development issues, physical issues missed because they weren’t seen in their medical home,” Miller said.
Miller is one of the thousands of AAP fellows condemning the federal waiver. According to the Vermont Department of Health, 95% of K through 12 students received all required vaccines last year. “We really appreciated the support, but especially here in Vermont, it’s not necessary,” she said.
That’s partially why the Vermont Office of Professional Regulation says it’s not already state law. Legislators have considered expanding pharmacy-based vaccinations to children for years, but they decided it wouldn’t work without a robust record-sharing system through which pharmacists and pediatricians can store medical histories. Now, officials are rushing to develop a streamlined system.
“The feeling in Vermont had been that those systems could use a little more fine-tuning before this was implemented at the state level by state lawmakers,” said Gabriel Gilman of the Office of Professional Regulation. “We’re in a bigger hurry than expected, but we may be able to do some good here. convenient vaccination for children is good, and I think everybody agrees on that.”
The Vermont Office of Professional Regulation says in as little as a few weeks, parents will be able to get your child immunized at big pharmacy chains like Walgreens or CVS. Those companies are more prepared than small, local stores because they’ve already been offering the service in 28 other states.
“I’m ready,” said Rob Carpenter, a registered pharmacist at the Hannaford Pharmacy in Rutland and Vermont Board of Pharmacy vice-chair. He says he’s happy to take on the responsibility. Still, providing the service will be an adjustment after 45 years on the job. “All of a sudden you’re going from an 18-year-old down to a 4-year-old child that you don’t know how he’s going to react to a shot.”
Carpenter says he looks forward to collaborating with Vermont pediatricians to provide proper, thorough health care, and stresses that their role should not be diminished. “Pharmacies giving childhood immunizations is not a substitute for a well-child visit,” he said.
Though it will be a convenient option for families who live far away from their pediatrician.
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