U.S. jurisdictions are letting pharmacists dispense more vaccines to younger patients with less direct prescriber oversight but barriers remain.

Since the 1990s, states have made laws to increase access to immunization services by giving pharmacists authority to give vaccines, said Cason D. Schmit, JD , of Texas A&M University at College Station, and Matthew S. Penn, JD , director of the Public Health Law Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta. This has the advantage of pharmacies being open longer hours than most physicians’ offices, in addition to the opportunities for immunizing people in rural locations as well as those people without a regular physician.

The two researchers used the Public Health Law Program at the CDC to assess statutes and regulations about pharmacists’ authority to administer vaccines in the 50 states and Washington from 1971 to January 2016. There was a trend to expand pharmacists’ vaccination authority: Jurisdictions made 627 changes to statutes and regulations relative to pharmacist vaccination authority, including 85 expansions, 3 restrictions, and 22 clarifications.

Yet barriers to pharmacists’ providing immunization services remain because of some state laws. Laws in nine states that prevent pharmacists from vaccinating patients younger than age 18 years keep pharmacists from administering any of the vaccines listed in the 2016 Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices child immunization schedule. The two states in which pharmacists can vaccinate patients as young as 14 years allow the pharmacists to administer only the recommended booster for meningococcal vaccine and annual influenza vaccines for children. And the 15 states with minimum patient age restrictions for 7- to 12-year-oldss allow pharmacists to administer only the four vaccines ACIP recommends on the 2016 schedule for children (meningococcal, Tdap, human papillomavirus, and annual influenza vaccines).

Read more in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association ( 2017 Nov-Dec;57[6]:661-9 ).