Veterans Groups Call On General Assembly to Pass Vaccine Access Legislation

Bill Would Close Loophole Preventing Military Families From Using TRICARE Vaccine Benefit

HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 30, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Officials from several veterans' advocacy organizations joined Representative Seth Grove (R-York) and Senator Ted Erickson (R-Delaware) in the Pennsylvania Capitol Rotunda today to call for quick passage of legislation allowing children ages 7 to 18 to be vaccinated by their local pharmacist. In addition to expanding access to vaccines for school-age children and adolescents, House Bill 776 and Senate Bill 819, sponsored by Grove and Erickson in their respective chambers, would close a loophole in Pennsylvania law that keeps military families from accessing free vaccines at pharmacies, a benefit under the TRICARE military health insurance program.

"Thousands of military families here in Pennsylvania are losing out on an important benefit they have earned under their TRICARE health insurance:  free vaccines in pharmacies.  Let's pass House Bill 776 to close this loophole and make it easier for military parents—and all parents—to get their kids immunized," said Rep. Grove.

Since 2011, the Department of Defense (DOD) has given military personnel and their children nationwide the option of being immunized at a pharmacy at no cost.  DOD took this step to increase immunization rates among the uniformed service members, retirees and families served by TRICARE and to reduce costs, because pharmacy vaccines cost the TRICARE program (and taxpayers) less than those given in a doctor's office.  However, because Pennsylvania law does not allow pharmacists to vaccinate children under age 18, military families here do not have access to this free benefit for their children.

"DOD recognizes the importance of giving families options when it comes to getting vaccines, because easier, more convenient access makes it more likely that kids will get the shots they need.  It is time for Pennsylvania to get on board with this sound reasoning and join the 36 other states that allow pharmacists to immunize children and teens," said Rep. Steve Barrar (R-Delaware), Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stresses the importance of vaccinations as a safe, cost-effective way to prevent serious and life-threatening illnesses at all ages.  The agency recommends that all children over six months receive a seasonal flu vaccine.  And in Pennsylvania, children entering seventh grade are required by law to have a TdaP vaccination to prevent tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.   Pharmacist-provided vaccines are a safe, convenient option for families seeking these vaccinations for their children.  Pharmacies are typically open beyond normal business hours and on weekends.  They are also located in rural, suburban and urban communities throughout the state, even where there are shortages of physicians and other health professionals.  A local pharmacist is often the most accessible—and trusted—health professional a family sees on a regular basis. 

"Military families work hard and make great sacrifices to support our freedom.  It is important for legislators to support their need for access to convenient, free immunizations for their children by voting for House Bill 776," said Chairman Barrar.

Grove and Erickson's bills have bipartisan support in the House and the Senate. The House Bill received committee approval back in June and is awaiting consideration by the full chamber.

Pharmacy Choice & Access NOW (PCAN) is a coalition of consumers, local business and pharmacists across the nation committed to preserving quality and affordable health care and pharmacy services for patients.  PCAN members are committed to providing the most cost effective solutions in the areas of health care and pharmacy services to enable states around the country to help solve their budget woes while maintaining quality care for children, families and other Medicaid-served populations.  You can Join the conversation on Facebook (Pharmacy Choice and Access Now) and Twitter (@RxPCAN)

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SOURCE Pharmacy Choice & Access NOW