Senate considers bill to allow pharmacists to administer vaccines


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A bill on today's Senate agenda would allow the territory to provide greater - and less expensive - access to vaccines and basic wellness tests.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Sammuel Sanes, would allow pharmacies to provide preventative care through immunizations and basic health testing.

Sanes said he has drafted an amendment in the nature of a substitute that will strengthen the measure and adds the wellness testing to the bill. It also removes some requirements of the V.I. Board of Medical Examiners, the licensing board for local physicians.

Sanes said his office received an unsigned letter from the Board of Medical Examiners objecting to the provision allowing pharmacists to administer wellness tests.

According to Sanes' office, the board's major objection is that they feel they need more time to go over the information and that they want a new bill to address the wellness tests that would include a detailed plan as to how the program would be administered.

Dr. Frank Odlum, chairman of the Board of Medical Examiners, did not return phone calls seeking comment by press time.

"This is an opportunity to provide accessible health care for everyone," Sanes said. "I'm really frustrated at the push back I'm getting on this."

Under the current version of Sanes' bill, the types of vaccines that could be offered at pharmacies, administered by trained and regulated pharmacists, would include inoculations against influenza, shingles, chicken pox, meningitis, pneumonia, Tdap, hepatitis A and B, and human papillomavirus.

The wellness tests would allow pharmacists to test for blood glucose levels (diabetes testing), body composition, cholesterol and blood pressure. They would even be allowed to perform drug tests.

If the territory passed the legislation, it would join the 50 states and Puerto Rico, all of which have similar laws on the books.

Sanes said that was his inspiration for drafting the bill. In the states, poor, uninsured people who typically would not be able to afford a doctor, can go to their local pharmacy for basic health screenings and immunizations.

This kind of preventative health care is good for everybody, Sanes said.

It lowers the hospitals' uncompensated care costs and improves the health of the community, he said.

"It's a lifesaver," Sanes said. "Look at the amount of children and elderly who die because of flu-related illnesses."

The Health, Hospitals, Human Services and Veterans' Affairs Committee meets at 9 a.m. at the Lawaetz Conference Room on St. Croix.

Other bills on today's agenda include:

- A bill to revamp the regulations for physical therapists in the Virgin Islands.

- A bill prohibiting the sale of electronic cigarettes and alternative nicotine products to minors.

- A bill to update some language in the V.I. Code relating to children with physical or intellectual disabilities to be less derogatory.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

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