March 31, 2021
Once the coronavirus pandemic landed in the United States and forced the country into lockdown, many people stopped going to their physician and neglected routine preventive healthcare like getting immunizations. This gap in preventive care motivated the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to authorize state-licensed pharmacists and interns to administer childhood and Covid-19 vaccines in August and September. A month later, looking at the vast challenge of rapidly inoculating more than 300 million Americans, the agency released another guidance authorizing pharmacy technicians to administer Covid-19 and childhood vaccines.
The authorization came with some requirements, one of them being a practical ACPE-approved training program. To help technicians fulfill this requirement, PRS Pharmacy Services, a consulting firm that specializes in helping pharmacy owners, has partnered with the National Pharmacy Technician Association (NPTA) to offer a program designed to rapidly train pharmacy technicians to administer these vaccines. This new program was developed by NPTA under the guidance of HHS.
According to the NPTA, the ″Immunization Administration Training Program is by far the most affordable, accessible and scalable program of its kind. The program has been designed to train hundreds of thousands of technicians within weeks, enabling the rapid deployment of vaccines to the public.″
With this program, technicians can become qualified to administer vaccines in a single day. The training is online and on-demand, and it takes about seven hours to complete. The program consists of seven modules, culminating in a hands-on training and skills assessment, which is another requirement from HHS. The pharmacist performs the hands-on training right there at the pharmacy, and if they need guidance for that, they’ll receive it from the program.
″One of the things the NPTA is doing is making sure the pharmacists are capable of doing that,″ said Josh Potter, director of compliance for PRS Pharmacy Services. ″They are basically training the pharmacist on how to do this hands-on skills assessment of the pharmacy technicians.″
The on-demand aspect of the training, especially for the hands-on portion, sets this program apart from others, Potter said. NPTA’s training can be done entirely at the pace preferred by the technician and pharmacist. With other programs, the technician might have to sign up for a Zoom training on a particular day, and if other technicians need training, they may have to wait until the next scheduled meeting, which could be as much as a month away.
Another unique feature is the option to purchase a ″site license.″ This option allows the pharmacy to train as many technicians as it wants within the calendar year. This would be ideal for a pharmacy with a large staff, but would also benefit any pharmacy that expects to offer the vaccine for the rest of the year. ″In the technician world, you have some turnover,″ Potter said. ″So the pharmacy is paying to get that technician certified and then they leave. Through this site license model, a pharmacy can certify and train all their technicians if they wanted to.″ A site license costs $399 while an individual costs $149.
To be considered a ″qualified pharmacy technician,″ the HHS guidance says: ″Pharmacy technicians working in states with licensure and/ or registration requirements must be licensed and/or registered in accordance with state requirements; pharmacy technicians working in states without licensure and/or registration requirements must have a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) certification from either the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board or National Healthcareer Association.″ This additional requirement makes things more difficult for technicians in certain states and is something to keep in mind, Potter said.
Although this expansion of the technician’s role will help with Covid-19 vaccine uptake, Potter sees it as part of the larger trajectory of the pharmacy industry. ″We’ve seen more pharmacies starting to get into the clinical aspect of pharmacy and the administration of drugs and vaccines,″ he said. ″It’s something that’s the logical next step, utilizing the technician to do more tasks.″
This article was published in our quarterly print magazine, which covers relevant topics in greater depth featuring leading experts in the industry. Subscribe to receive the quarterly print issue in your mailbox. All registered independent pharmacies in the U.S. are eligible to receive a free subscription.
More articles from the March 2021 issue:
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