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New Waiver Allows Qualified Pennsylvania Vaccinators to Administer COVID-19 Vaccine to 16- and 17-Year-Olds; Expanded to Include 12- to 15-Year-Olds

February 5, 2021 -- Revised 5/12/2021

The overall purpose of this waiver/suspension is to expand the pool of COVID-19 vaccinators to help increase access to COVID-19 vaccinations. This waiver will help to align Pennsylvania's response efforts with guidance and waivers issued by the federal government, as well as temporarily alter certain state regulations to make it possible for that alignment to occur.

On October 20, 2020, the federal Department of Health and Human Services issued Guidance for PREP Act Coverage for Qualified Pharmacy Technicians and State-Authorized Pharmacy Interns for Childhood Vaccines, COVID-19 Vaccines, and COVID-19 Testing. The guidance authorizes licensed pharmacists and registered pharmacy interns to administer COVID-19 vaccines to persons younger than 18 years of age. 

However, pursuant to the statute and regulations governing the Pennsylvania State Board of Pharmacy, pharmacists who have obtained authorization to administer injectables (and pharmacy interns who meet certain training and other requirements) may only administer injectables to individuals who are 18 years of age and older.

Although the PREP Act and subsequent amendments indicate that the Act preempts conflicting state and local laws, the Department of State believes that greater clarity will be achieved − benefiting both the regulated community and the general public − by issuing a waiver in conformity with the PREP Act's allowance for COVID-19 immunizations to be administered by pharmacists and pharmacy interns to those under age 18.

The Department requested, and Gov Wolf approved,  a temporary change in the age restriction set forth in 63 P.S. § 390-9.2 and 49 Pa. Code § 27.403 to persons who are "more than 16 years of age." A person is more than 16 years of age on the day following the person's 16th birthday.

Subsequently, on May 10, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to Pfizer/BioNTech for a COVID-19 vaccine for all individuals ages 12 and above. On May 12, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted unanimously to recommend giving Pfizer/BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine to kids as young as 12.

In view of the foregoing, the Department requested, and the Governor approved, that the previously-authorized suspension lowering the allowable age for pharmacists to administer immunizations to 16- and 17-year-olds be further lowered to 12 years of age and older.

This waiver applies solely to COVID-19 vaccines, and shall last for the duration of the Governor's Disaster Emergency Declaration plus an additional 90 days thereafter, unless terminated sooner.

Parent(s) or guardian(s) of children younger than 18 should speak with their vaccine provider about the appropriate vaccine for their child.