oups Friday announced their support for vital legislation filed by Senator Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), Representative Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker) and Representative Gene Wu (D-Houston) – Senate Bill 1013, House Bill 2938 and House Bill 2222 – that would increase access to critical and cost-effective immunizations for Texas children by expanding immunization authority for Texas pharmacists.

When it comes to immunization rates, Texas ranks below the national average. Expanding immunization authority for pharmacists would encourage more childhood immunizations given the cost-effective and convenient nature of pharmacy-administered immunizations.

“Pharmacists are highly qualified and trusted health care providers who are in the best position to help meet the growing immunization demand and reduce the number of vaccine-preventable diseases for thousands of Texas children,” said Joe DaSilva, chief executive officer of Texas Pharmacy Association. “Unfortunately, there are still many immunizations that Texans do not have easy access to, including the highly contagious Pertussis (whooping cough). Expanding immunization authority for Texas pharmacists will increase access to vital immunizations for children across our state, helping to prevent diseases and reduce health care costs in the long run.”

State law currently allows pharmacists to administer the flu vaccine to anyone over the age of 7, but only allows them to administer other Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended vaccines – including tetanus, diphtheria and Tdap (whooping cough) – to those over the age of 14. SB 1013, HB 2938 and HB 2222 would allow Texas’ highly qualified and certified pharmacists to administer much-needed vaccines to children over the age of 7.

Immunizations, including those administered by pharmacists, assist in preventing an estimated 14 million cases of vaccine-preventable diseases and 33,000 deaths nationwide. According to the CDC, vaccines are considered to be one of the safest, most efficient and cost-effective preventative measures against certain diseases.

According to a February 2013 poll by Baselice and Associates, 93 percent of Texas voters agree that “children, with their parent’s consent, should be immunized to protect them against common childhood diseases such as measles, meningitis and chicken pox.” The poll of 836 voters, conducted Feb. 20-24, also found that 87 percent of Texas voters – including 86 percent of Republican voters – agree that “trained pharmacists as well as trained nurses and physicians should be allowed to give immunization shots to children over the age of 7 to help more children get the immunizations they need.”

Texas’ more than 10,000 licensed pharmacists are of critical importance for preventative care within their communities, especially in areas where patients have limited access to a doctor’s office. For many Texans living in Medically Underserved Areas and Health Provider Shortage Areas, their local pharmacist is their closest health care provider. In addition, pharmacists offer more convenience in that they do not require a scheduled appointment and many are open extended hours.

“Increased accessibility to immunizations can result in fewer missed school days, fewer hospital visits and can even save lives,” said John Heal, governmental affairs director for Texas TrueCare Pharmacy. “The filing of this legislation is an important step in the effort to improve the health of our children and reduce health care costs. We look forward to working with Sen. Taylor, Rep. Laubenberg and Rep. Wu to ensure more Texas children have access to these vital immunizations.”