Rep. Danny Bentley, R-Russell, a pharmacist, said the bill is not a mandate. (Photo by LRC Public Information)
FRANKFORT — A House bill that would allow Kentucky pharmacies to continue administering vaccines to children ages 5-17 with parental or guardian consent passed unanimously out of a committee Thursday.
House Bill 274 is “not a mandate” to get vaccinated at a pharmacy, sponsor and pharmacist Rep. Danny Bentley, R-Russell, told members of the House Committee on Health Services. Children are required to be vaccinated against certain diseases to attend public schools. Guardians who object on religious grounds must provide a written, sworn statement expressing that.
“This bill,” Bentley said, “is for those counties without pediatricians.” The Kentucky Primary Care Association said in 2022 that 94% of the state’s 120 counties don’t have enough primary care providers, the Lantern previously reported.
“We know that most people are within five miles of the pharmacy,” Bentley said. “We’re trying to prevent a public health crisis with our childhood vaccines.”
The first version of Bentley’s bill applied to children starting at age 3, but he moved it to age 5, he said Thursday, after discussions with the Kentucky Medical Association.
Brooke Hudspeth, the president of the Kentucky Pharmacists Association (KPhA), said the bill “simply codifies the practice that pharmacists across the state have been performing for the past four years so that we can ensure continued access to care that children and their parents have come to expect.”
“When childhood immunization rates plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government asked pharmacists to help fill in the gap,” Hudspeth said.
Under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, pharmacists gave vaccinations to children three years and older, she added, “to help improve access to care.”
“We want to make sure that children are protected from communicable diseases and vaccines have been proven to keep children safe,” committee Chair Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, said before the vote. “I appreciate that this is not a mandate, that this is voluntary. But it does increase the convenience factor for families and parents and ensures safety and … protection.”
The bill, which has bipartisan cosponsors, can now go to the full house for a vote.
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