To reopen the nation successfully and to suppress future COVID-19 outbreaks, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) is urging government actions supporting three key objectives that are crucial for the health of all Americans, and especially for those who are left behind economically and medically. These actions relate directly to testing, contact tracing and vaccines or treatments.
The national organization representing 40,000 traditional, grocery and mass retail pharmacies, with 155,000 pharmacists, lists these steps in a new report “Pharmacies: A Vital Partner in Reopening America.” The steps support these key objectives:
- Maximize rapid COVID-19 testing operations across all platforms and venues;
- Support public health surveillance and related contact tracing efforts; and
- Prepare now: accelerate access to forthcoming COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.
“This paper outlines three key operational considerations for the Trump Administration, Congress, and governors as they develop recovery plans aimed at unlocking the national economy and local economies while still protecting the health of communities. As states consider future actions, thought leaders should strive toward uniformity to the greatest extent possible, as doing so allows for more seamless participation from private sector partners, especially those operating across multiple states,” NACDS says in the report.
Specific to pharmacies and pharmacists, NACDS urges: “Community pharmacies should remain a critical centerpiece of the COVID-19 pandemic response and future mitigation strategies. Pharmacies continue to collaborate with state and local public health officials on pandemic surveillance and sharing critical information to inform state health and economic decisions. As our nation moves forward, we proffer that federal and state governments should enhance engagement with pharmacies across the response continuum from scaling community testing to executing a national pandemic immunization plan.”
Vaccines and Treatments
Looking forward to the availability of COVID-19 medications and vaccines, NACDS cites a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study that found retail pharmacies help to vaccinate 80 percent of the population seven weeks sooner during a pandemic than otherwise would be possible. Accessibility remains a pharmacy hallmark, with 90 percent of Americans living within five miles of one.
One rapidly approaching litmus test presented in the NACDS report is a June 24 meeting of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices – at which the Committee could take one action that would have the effect of permitting pharmacists in half of the states to provide a forthcoming COVID-19 vaccine. The NACDS report describes a series of additional recommendations for a well-planned vaccination program in all states.
Among its COVID-19 testing recommendations, the NACDS report identifies further policy barriers that must be removed; urges the inclusion of pharmacist-provided testing in state Medicaid programs; encourages states to facilitate partnerships among pharmacies, local businesses and public health officials; and describes coverage and reimbursement issues that are essential to scale and sustain testing programs.
Surveillance and Contact Tracing
Among its surveillance and contact tracing recommendations, NACDS urges a national program through private and public partnerships that creates a single access point for data; demonstrates the importance of existing models related to hepatitis C and HIV; and emphasizes the importance of modern infrastructure.