In an effort to expand testing capabilities, HHS is authorizing licensed pharmacists to order and administer COVID-19 tests to their patients. The accessibility and distribution of retail and independent community-based pharmacies make pharmacists the first point of contact with a healthcare professional for many Americans. This will further expand testing for Americans, particularly our healthcare workers and first responders who are working around the clock to provide care, compassion and safety to others.
As the number of confirmed cases and deaths attributed to COVID-19 continue to climb worldwide, policymakers should act quickly to respond. As state policymakers take steps to ensure that their communities are prepared for COVID-19, they should evaluate their state’s laws and emergency plans to ensure that pharmacists practicing in hospitals, clinics, physician offices, and retail settings are able to effectively support the COVID-19 response. In many communities, pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare providers and the first touchpoint of patient engagement with the healthcare system. In fact, 90% of all Americans live within five miles of a community pharmacy. In rural and underserved communities and in areas experiencing physician shortages, pharmacists may be the only healthcare provider that is immediately accessible to patients. Pharmacists practicing in hospitals, clinics, physician offices, and community settings are trained to treat infectious diseases and can significantly expand access to care, if barriers are removed. Pharmacists receive a clinically based doctor of pharmacy degree, and many also complete postgraduate residencies and become board certified in areas of specialty care, including infectious disease. Each year, nearly 4,000 pharmacists complete a pharmacy residency and 1,300 complete an additional residency in a clinical specialty. There are currently more than 800 board-certified infectious disease pharmacists nationwide. Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia grant pharmacists the ability to practice collaboratively with physicians.