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Increasing healthcare access in rural Missouri

Holly Rehder

Submitted by Holly Rehder

We all know that the world went through a lot of changes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some changes were big, some were small. Many continue to debate whether those changes were good or bad. One thing I believe we can all agree on though, is that improved medical access is always a good change. That’s why I wanted to make pharmacists temporary permissions to administer vaccines without all the red tape, granted in 2020 by the Trump administration, a permanent option under Missouri law.

Under previous law, pharmacists were not allowed to administer any vaccines, even routine ones such as the flu vaccine, unless they have entered into individual protocol agreements with a physician. This requirement could be waived under certain situations, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic and in 2009 during the H1N1 outbreak. During these situations when pharmacists were able to administer vaccines, it proved that not only do these medical professionals have the ability to provide this service, it drastically increases and speeds up public access to vital medicines and frees up physicians to see more patients.

That is why I once again made this issue one of my priorities for the 2023 legislative session by sponsoring Senate Bill 41. The emergency order that allowed pharmacists to administer these without the unnecessary oversight was scheduled to end this year. I wanted to make sure that Missourians, especially in rural areas where it is harder to get in to see a physician, could maintain their access. I’m also excited to say that in the same bill we were able to allow pharmacists to start administering some tests, such as for strep throat and the flu. Right now we are waiting for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to finalize the rules and protocols that will regulate this new law.

 Getting a vaccine-related bill across the finish line is never going to be easy and there were plenty of discussions and debates about the necessity of this change. At the end of the day though, this bill is not about whether vaccines are right or wrong, and it does not mandate anyone get any vaccine. What this bill does is help our rural areas have more healthcare access. Something I hope we can all agree is a good thing.

This is not the first time I’ve presented this legislation, but it is the first time we’ve gotten it through the entire legislative journey and to the governor’s desk. Our local pharmacists and the Pharmacy Association, as well as many in the medical community have been tremendously helpful throughout the entire process. The language in SB 41 was ultimately added to Senate Bills 45 and 157, as well as House Bill 115, all of which were signed by the governor and are set to become law.

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