September 5, 2012

Illinois Lowers Age for Pharmacist Vaccinations to
Combat Outbreaks

Chicago—With pertussis cases increasing since last year and one state—Washington—even declaring an epidemic in April, public health officials are scrambling to find a way to control the disease.

One state, Illinois, has come up with a potentially effective way to combat its above-national-average pertussis rate: It lowered the age at which children can be vaccinated by pharmacists.

Children as young as 10 can be vaccinated now at pharmacies under an Illinois law that went into effect immediately in late August. Previously, children had to be 14 or older to get immunizations from pharmacists. They still are required to have a prescription before getting the shots.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed the bill into law at a Chicago drug store recently, saying, “We are blessed with modern medicines that can prevent illnesses, but we must make sure children have access to them. This new law means more children will be getting vaccinated, which means healthier children, healthier families and fewer days away from school."

Illinois Senate Bill 3513, sponsored by Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago) and Rep. Dan Burke (D-Chicago), allows pharmacists to administer influenza and Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis) vaccines to children ages 10 to 13, with a valid prescription from a licensed physician.

“Thanks to this legislation, families with younger children will no longer have to seek out and travel to medical facilities that may be far away. Now, they’ll have the convenient option of going to any of their local pharmacies that offer these shots,” Martinez said.

Infants have a higher incidence rate of pertussis than all other age groups, followed by children ages 7 through 10 and adolescents ages 13 and 14, according to the CDC, and more widespread vaccination is expected to offer babies greater protection.

The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended that anyone in close contact with infants younger than 12 months old—such as parents, siblings, grandparents, and childcare personnel—should receive a single dose of Tdap to protect against pertussis if they have not previously received the vaccine. According to this strategy, known as cocooning, those individuals should receive the Tdap vaccine at least 2 weeks prior to having close contact with the infant.

ACIP also recently revised recommendations for prenatal use of the Tdap vaccine, saying unvaccinated pregnant women should get it after 20 weeks gestation, during the third or late second trimester. If the vaccine is not administered during pregnancy, then it should be given immediately postpartum.

The ages at which states allow pharmacy-administered vaccines vary widely. Here is one list related to influenza and pneumonia immunizations. For verification or more information, pharmacists should check with state health officials.

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