Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Governor Perdue Signs House Bill 217 for Access to Flu Vaccine

Governor Sonny Perdue yesterday signed House Bill 217, the “Access to Flu Vaccines Act,” which permits pharmacists and nurses to order and dispense flu shots pursuant to a protocol agreement with a physician. The bill also grants the Governor broader emergency powers if a pandemic influenza is declared by the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control.

“The flu affects thousands of people each year and our citizens should be able to access flu vaccines to protect themselves and their families,” said Governor Perdue. “This legislation makes it easier for Georgians to receive flu shots and allows the state to respond quickly and effectively to any flu outbreak.”

The bill was introduced in January by State Rep. Jimmy Pruett, one of the Governor’s floor leaders in the House. The bill was intended to clarify the ability of pharmacists and nurses to dispense flu shots without individual prescriptions. Last fall, the Composite Board of Medical Examiners, in consultation with the Attorney General’s office, determined the flu shot to be a “dangerous drug” and therefore each person seeking a vaccination would need an individual prescription.

The “Access to Flu Vaccines Act” returns the state to the past practices of more than a decade, allowing physicians to enter into protocol agreements with pharmacists and registered nurses to allow the ordering and dispensing of flu shots without a physician’s individual prescription. To ensure quality control, physicians may issue no more than 10 standing orders with pharmacists and nurses within the same county or adjacent county to the physician’s primary place of business. Corporations with more than one location are also included in this agreement. This includes grocery stores and drug stores.

HB 217 ensures hospitals have the explicit authority to offer its staff or patient any vaccination, test or prophylactic matter required or recommended by the CDC.

The bill also includes an emergency powers provision that allows the Governor to declare a “pandemic influenza” state of emergency if the WHO declares a Phase 5 Pandemic Alert for influenza in the United States and/or Georgia or the CDC declares at least a Category 2 Pandemic Severity index for influenza in the United States or Georgia.

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