KINGSTON, RI — As Rhode Island and health care providers around the world races to get as many people the COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible, the University of Rhode Island is using its College of Pharmacy to help the effort.
Under the new pandemic health regulations, pharmacy technicians are allowed to administer the vaccine, meaning those who have not previously administered vaccines need to be trained. They now join pharmacists, who have been allowed to give vaccinations in the state for about a decade.
The URI College of Pharmacy's Office of Continuing Professional Development for the Health Professions gave a training recently for 33 pharmacy techs and 29 pharmacists. Paul Larrat, the college's dean, was in attendance.
"There were primarily pharmacy technicians in the training, but we also had a handful of pharmacists trained," Larrat said. "This is in addition to the hundreds of students who we’ve trained in recent years to administer vaccines. They get certified early on — in their second professional year — and they’re able to begin administering vaccines in pharmacies, under the supervision of a pharmacist."
The Pharmacy-Based Immunization Administration by Pharmacy Technicians program was developed by Washington State University and recently revised in connection with the American Pharmacists Association. It is a two-part program that "emphasizes a healthcare team collaboration between pharmacists and technicians, which aims to improve population health by increasing immunization rates in states that allow technicians to immunize.," the univeristy said.
"It is a new regulation that pharmacy techs are allowed to inject," said Brett Feret, the director of experiential education. "Obviously, that’s mostly due to the pandemic that this program was created to increase the number of vaccinators to help meet the critical demand.”
At this point, techs are helping to immunize health care workers and nursing home residents, and are expected to help vaccinate the general public in pharmacies once the state reached that phase of distribution.
"The greatest need right now is to get hospital workers vaccinated, and they’re turning to our students and their pharmacists and technicians," Larrat said. "It’s a big job."