Arlington, VA—Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacists have greatly expanded their role in providing essential healthcare services in the United States.

A new poll suggests that Americans want that situation to continue.

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores, which sponsored the survey, said that respondents clearly made a distinction between rolling back pharmacy access and rolling back broader pandemic policies. It is urging the Biden Administration and Congress to do the same.

The poll conducted by Morning Consult from December 7 to December 12 found that 64% of U.S. respondents agreed that “learning the lessons of the pandemic means keeping in place policies that make it easier for patients to access services from pharmacists and other pharmacy team members—including vaccinations.” Those agreeing made up majorities of self-identified Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.

Only 20% endorsed the following concept: “It is time to return to all policies that were in place before the pandemic, including those that limit patients’ access to services provided by pharmacists and other pharmacy team members.”

In a letter to President Joe Biden, Health & Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, the White House COVID-19 task force, and members of Congress—consistent with the new poll and with the impending end to pandemic policies—the NACDS again  conveyed to the Biden Administration and Congress the increasing urgency of preventing forced reductions in patients’ access to pharmacy services that now are widely expected.

“If this capacity goes away, Americans’ vaccination experience will be characterized by lack of access, especially for children and families, longer wait times, and frustration,” wrote NACDS President and CEO Steven C. Anderson. “The current ‘triple-demic’ of COVID-19, flu, and RSV [respiratory syncytial virus] demonstrates that our nation will continue to experience spikes in vaccination demand.”

The NACDS is advocating that the Biden Administration continues to ensure pharmacy authorities related to vaccination, testing, and treatment, even with the end of a public health emergency or with the transition of COVID-19 countermeasures to commercial markets. NACDS, with other pharmacy groups, is advocating for the passage of the Equitable Community Access to Pharmacist Services Act (H.R. 7213) in Congress.

Failure to act “keeps patients in a guessing game about pharmacy access and keeps pharmacies in a guessing game about pharmacy operations,” Mr. Anderson pointed out.

The NACDS said that pharmacies continue to provide two-thirds of the nation’s COVID-19 vaccinations, with the total number rapidly approaching 300 million. It adds that more than 40% of those vaccinated for COVID-19 at a pharmacy are from otherwise underserved areas.

In another finding of the NACDS poll, pharmacies remain the most accessible healthcare destinations tested; 86% of respondents said it is “very easy” or “somewhat easy” to access pharmacies.

Morning Consult conducted the poll among a sample of 20,010 adults. The interviews were conducted online, and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of adults based on gender, age, race, educational attainment, and region. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percentage point. The NACDS commissioned the poll.

“We call urgently on the Biden Administration to take immediate action to issue a new PREP Act amendment that keeps current pharmacy PREP Act amendments in place through October 2024,” the NACDS said in the letter.

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