The state Department of Health last year began requiring all children to be vaccinated before they could start school.

It was a good idea, in theory, to ensure students were immunized against illnesses, particularly those that could be spread to others.

In practice, though, doctors were overwhelmed and many parents didn't comply, forcing the department to delay the law's effective date.

Like so many things, it likely came down to either time or money, maybe both.

Parents who had insurance and could afford to get their children vaccinated had to schedule doctors' appointments -- not a simple task usually, a harder one when so many other parents are trying to do the same thing at the same time.

For parents without insurance and unable to cover a well-child doctor's visit out of pocket ... well, they simply didn't schedule one.

State Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, has introduced legislation designed to ease both problems, but it's not without its critics.

House Bill 776 would allow the state's more than 6,000 certified pharmacists to vaccinate minors at their places of business, making the process more convenient and accessible.

It cleared the House Professional Licensure Committee by a vote of 19-5.

Yet even though certified pharmacists can now immunize adults 18 and older, some in the medical field say allowing them to do the same to children is too dangerous.


Advertisement

Members of the Pennsylvania Medical Society are "overwhelmingly negative" toward the bill, citing concerns about the possibility of severe adverse reactions to the medication.

But considering some pharmacists already administer vaccines to adults, is the risk really any greater for children?

Pat Epple, CEO of the Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association, says immunization-certified pharmacists must be trained in CPR and have, as pharmacists, access to the drug epinephrine to administer if there's an adverse reaction.

She said if the bill becomes law, recently vaccinated young people would have to stay in the pharmacy for about 20 minutes to make sure they don't react.

Grove alleges doctors who oppose his bill do so because they worry about losing income as patients go to more affordable pharmacies for their vaccinations.

We'd be foolish not to consider that possibility.

In fact, Epple says, pharmacists in 34 states already are permitted to deliver vaccinations to children.

Consider also that York's largest health system, WellSpan Health, supports Grove's bill.

"... Pharmacists are capable of providing this important service, and they already do in adults," said Rick Ayers, director of public relations and marketing.

He added, though, the company believes it's important for patients to tell their primary care provider about any vaccines they get from a pharmacy, so that information can be added to medical records.

There might be even more precautions that should be taken, in which case they should be debated and, if necessary, added into the legislation.

But overall, it seems, this bill is just what the patient -- if not the doctor -- ordered.