Ohio state legislators have approved a bill that gives pharmacists and pharmacy interns an expanded scope of practice where immunizations are concerned.
The bill, which was signed by Gov. John Kasich on Dec. 19, 2014, and goes into effect March 19, 2015, lowers the age at which a pharmacist may administer certain immunizations and expands immunizations a pharmacy intern may administer.
It’s a change in Ohio law that students and faculty from the James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy have lobbied for since 2013.
Under current law, pharmacists may give flu shots to individuals 14 years old or older and pharmacy interns may give flu shots to individuals 18 years old or older. Under the bill, both pharmacists and pharmacy interns may give flu shots to individuals starting at 7 years old. The bill also has provisions for pharmacists and pharmacy interns to administer other select immunizations to adults and minors.
"It is very rare when students can play such an integral role in changing the laws that determine how they will practice”, the college’s director of experiential training, assistant professor Michael Doherty, PharmD, explains of how the bill was born three years ago during the first Professionalism and Advocacy elective he taught. The students invited Senator Eric Kearney to speak and were encouraged to take an active role in the laws that govern their profession, says Doherty.
While all 50 states allow pharmacists to immunize patients, restrictions vary from state to state.
Speaking as a student pharmacist, pharmacy intern and as the University of Cincinnati student representative to the Ohio Pharmacists Association Board of Trustees, PharmD candidate Erin Rogers testified to lawmakers in support of a new bill on three occasions and explained in her testimony how expanding the scope of practice for pharmacists and pharmacy interns would increase access to health care for Ohioans.
Rogers gave the example of the sharp contrast between the laws in Kentucky and those in Ohio: Pharmacists and pharmacy interns across the river in Kentucky, educated and trained exactly the same as she, she explained, could provide flu shots to minors while pharmacists and pharmacy interns in Ohio could not—thus, she said, diminishing the quality of care in this state.
Many student pharmacists, she says, also went to Columbus as part of the Professionalism and Advocacy course to meet with their legislators to garner additional support for the legislation.
"This bill expands access to immunizations for many patients across the state of Ohio. Pharmacy Interns are now allowed to administer the same immunizations as a Certified Immunizing Pharmacist, which we were not allowed to do previously. This was a valuable experience for me to understand the law-changing process.” says Rogers.
Doherty adds: "The entire process has been an unbelievable experience for our students and the college as a whole”.
The Ohio Pharmacist Association (OPA) was the main backer of the bill, which passed by a strong majority in both the Senate and the House.