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Bill could make flu shots more accessible
Legislation would remove prescription requirement
Flu Shot 1 jd
Kroger pharmacist Lori Cowart gives Maggie Parker a flu shot as husband Jack waits in 2008. The Parkers’ doctor provided Cowart with a prescription over the phone. New legislation could remove the prescription requirement. - photo by File photo
As flu season is winding down, Gov. Sonny Perdue is considering legislation to provide easier access to the vaccination.

Dubbed the Access to Flu Vaccines Act, House Bill 217 would allow pharmacists and nurses to dispense flu shots without a physician’s prescription.

The measure, however, does still require a protocol agreement with a physician.

The bill, which earned overwhelming support when it passed both legislative branches, also includes precautions to ensure safe administration of the vaccine.

“The flu affects thousands of people each year and our citizens should be able to access flu vaccines to protect themselves and our families,” said Perdue in a recent statement. “With this legislation, it will be easier for Georgians, especially vulnerable populations like children and the elderly, to receive their yearly flu shot.”

Many Georgians have been receiving flu shots at their local pharmacy or through an area flu shot drive for years. But a Composite State Board of Medical Examiners’ investigation brought to light a law indicating the practice is actually against state law.

Not many were familiar with the old law, which says the vaccination is considered a prescription drug. But following the investigation, many pharmacies began requiring a prescription.

In October, the Forsyth County Senior Center welcomed a Kroger pharmacist to administer the shot to area seniors, only to learn none of the seniors knew they needed a prescription. Only two doctors would offer a prescription over the phone, leaving the other 38 seniors looking for other options.

“Prior to [2008], we’ve always been able to provide flu vaccinations, so it was an unexpected change,” said Shelly Johnson, senior center director. “I was unaware that a prescription would be required, because it hasn’t been in the past.”

Fortunately, this flu season has been “one of the mildest in years,” said Arleen Porcell-Pharr, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokeswoman.

A record 146 million doses were distributed for the current flu season, however the organization doesn’t track how many individuals actually received the shot.

Lakeside Pharmacy Owner Apollon Constantinides said because his pharmacy shares a building with doctors’ offices, he does not offer the vaccination.

He said he would be a bit concerned about possibilities allowed by the new legislation.

“Having a flu shot at a grocery store is kind of like going to Chick-fil-A and trying to get a Whopper,” he said. “It only takes one crisis to cause a problem and change somebody’s life.

“They almost make it like it’s a drive-thru, where they come by and hit them in the arm and they walk out the door. But who is responsible if they have some sort of anaphylactic reaction or if they have an allergy to it?”

District 27 state Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, said the bill does include provisions making sure anyone administering the shot has been authorized by the state.

The bill also requires an individual to remain under the observation of the pharmacist or nurse for at least 15 minutes. There are also required procedures in case of an adverse reaction or complication.

“It’s just going to help people get their vaccines, rather than having to go to a doctor’s office to give them a shot,” said Murphy. “It makes them more readily available … and whether it’s a grocery store or drug store, [those giving the vaccine] have to show that they’re able to administer the shot.”

E-mail Jennifer Sami at