“Everybody knows that kids need “baby shots” – immunizations that protect against once-common childhood diseases. The shots are required for school entry, so most children are up-to-date by the time that they are five years old. But what many of their parents and grandparents don’t realize is that adults need immunizations as well. And the adults lag far behind the kids in getting the shots that they need.” This quote from Daniel Blumenthal M.D. of Morehouse School of Medicine was stated to address a bill currently pending in the Georgia legislature which would permit pharmacists to administer adult immunizations that are currently off-limits. Today, pharmacists can administer flu shots for adults but many other shots must be given in the physician’s office.
Vaccinations are one of the few advances in science and health care that have been able to prevent and or eradicate certain diseases. Think about it! We take a pill for Hypertension but it doesn’t go away, the same with a Migraine Headache (it usually comes back). A preventative Pap smear or mammogram screens for cancer but cannot prevent cancer. However, certain vaccinations can virtually eliminate our chance of “catching” certain illnesses including respiratory and sexually transmitted diseases.
Expanding clinical privileges to a broader professional group has always been difficult. As a physician, I too have been sensitive and protective about issues surrounding expanding privileges. However, it is evident that there is a need to change the strategy for caring for our growing U.S. population. The bottom line is that there are not enough primary care physicians to take care of the expanding insured population that is soon to come as a result of Health Reform. Also, physicians are graduating from medical school with a preference to practice in urban and suburban areas often leaving behind the underserved and more rural communities. Expanding certain privileges to qualified health professionals like Physician Assistants, Nurse Practitioners, and Pharmacist can help spread a national health care safety net to improve the health and clinical outcomes for all who live in this country.
Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin developed polio vaccines in the 1950’s that have eradicated the disease in the United States and in most of the world. We now have many other vaccines that can help prevent and or lessen the impact of infectious diseases for children and adults. If an adult can go to the local pharmacist to receive a preventive cure at virtually no risk, why should we make them wait for a doctor’s appointment that they may never go to? Also, why shouldn’t we let the physician use their medical brain power to work on more complicated clinical issues that need their attention? The more adults that get vaccinated; the less we have to worry about exposure to an infectious disease that may make us or a family member sick.