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Spanberger, McKinley Urge HHS to Focus on Community Pharmacies for COVID Vaccine Distribution

January 29, 2021 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – Reps. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., and David McKinley, R-W.Va., are urging the Department of Health and Human Services to place community pharmacists at the lead in the nation’s COVID-19 vaccines distribution strategy.

In a letter to HHS Acting Secretary Norris Cochran, Spanberger and McKinley pointed to states where community pharmacists have taken a larger leadership role and have seen a much faster distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to vulnerable populations, including nursing home residents. 

Additionally, the representatives urged HHS to incorporate these strategies into the federal COVID-19 vaccination strategy, including in efforts to combat hesitancy about receiving the vaccine in underserved and historically marginalized communities.

“Community pharmacists have the flexibility to cut through red tape and reduce paperwork burdens for patients and their guardians in many cases,” the lawmakers said.

As an example, they pointed to West Virginia where community pharmacists established a vaccine drive that finished administering the first round of the vaccine to nursing home residents by the end of December.

“By comparison, at the end of December most other states had only just begun administering the first dose of the vaccine to nursing home residents,” Spanberger and McKinley said. 

Their letter continued, “The stakes could not be higher because nursing home residents are the most vulnerable to severe disease and death from coronavirus infection. More than 100,000 nursing home residents and staff have died from COVID-19 since April. As community spread has worsened and cases surged in the past few months, new deaths in long-term care facilities have trended upwards as well. 

“We urge you to adapt lessons learned from states that have put in place successful, community-led strategies to protect the most vulnerable,” they said.

The bipartisan proposal has already won the approval of the Virginia Assisted Living Association and the National Community Pharmacists Association. 

The full text of the letter can be read here.

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