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​Pharmacy Interns' Immunization Skills to be More Fully Utilized By Expanding Supervision Options

January 27, 2021

In its ongoing effort to increase the number of providers who can administer COVID-19 vaccinations, the Wolf Administration has cleared the way for registered pharmacy interns to help vaccinate potentially thousands of additional Pennsylvanians.

Qualified pharmacy students who have registered as pharmacy interns are already authorized to administer vaccinations − including COVID-19 vaccines − to anyone 18 years of age and older, as well as flu shots to those ages 9 and older (lowered to 3 years of age during the pandemic pursuant to a previous waiver granted by the Governor). To administer COVID-19 vaccines, pharmacy interns are currently required to be under the direct, immediate and personal supervision of a licensed pharmacist who holds an active authorization to administer injectable medications. This necessarily ties the number of students and the number of vaccinations they can administer on the one hand, to the number of licensed pharmacists available to supervise them on the other.

This supervision requirement may not be as much of an issue in many community pharmacies across the commonwealth, where the number of available pharmacists to directly supervise student pharmacists is expected to be sufficient. There will likely be other scenarios, however, where the number of pharmacy interns who are willing to assist with administering COVID-19 vaccinations far exceeds the number of available pharmacists to supervise them. This could include settings such as mass immunization clinics, long-term care facilities and health systems, for example, where there may be hundreds of pharmacist interns willing to volunteer to administer immunizations but an insufficient number of supervising pharmacists.

The vaccination administration skills of trained and qualified pharmacy students could be more fully utilized, without sacrificing safety or increasing risk to vaccine recipients, if the category of permissible supervisors of such vaccinations could be expanded beyond licensed, authorized pharmacists.

To that end, and given the current challenges associated with delivering the COVID-19 vaccine to as many people as possible, Governor Wolf has granted a waiver to broaden eligible supervisors to include other licensed and trained healthcare professionals whose current scope of practice allows them to immunize, thereby making it possible for pharmacy interns to administer COVID-19 vaccinations under the direct, immediate and personal supervision of a pharmacist OR certain other health care practitioners.

Specifically, appropriate supervisors pursuant to this waiver shall include other licensed healthcare professionals who are trained in administration of immunizations and emergency care of patients, namely, physicians and surgeons, physician assistants and nurse-midwives licensed by the State Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine, as well as registered nurses (RNs) and certified registered nurse practitioners (CRNPs) licensed by the State Board of Nursing.

This waiver applies solely to COVID-19 vaccines and shall be valid for the duration of the Governor's disaster emergency declaration plus an additional 90 days thereafter, unless terminated sooner.