Florida seeks to approve pharmacists to give shingles, pneumonia vaccines

Bills in the Florida Senate and House, if approved, would authorize trained pharmacists to vaccinate adults over the age of 60 for shingles and over the age of 65 for pneumonia.

Public health officials in the state recommend that seniors receive both of the vaccinations. Unlike most states, Florida does not allow pharmacists to administer the vaccinations. Five years ago, however, pharmacists in the state gained the right to administer flu shots, reports.

"It's much easier for an individual to go to a pharmacy to get a shot than it is to make an appointment with a doctor, paying a co-pay with a doctor and getting the shot," Ana Rivas Logan, a state representative (R-Miami) and the bill's sponsor in the House, said, according to "This is about access to health care, about reducing health care costs."

If the rules are adopted, they would go into effect on July 1.

Approximately 70 percent of Floridians 65 and up received pneumonia vaccinations in 2010, which puts it in the top 25 percent of all of the states. Pneumonia is particularly dangerous for the elderly, as their immune systems have a more difficult time fighting lung infections. Shingles, which typically affects adults over the age of 60, can lead to painful blistering rashes.

"I think what we were looking at mainly is health outcomes and if this will make our customers healthier," Paul Fleming, a representative of the Florida Retail Federation, said, reports. "But certainly from the business side it is something valuable we'd like to be able to provide to our customers."

Opposition against the bill from physician groups faded after lawmakers required that patients have a doctor's prescription to get a shingles vaccines from a pharmacy. Pharmacists would also have to complete vaccination continuing education courses.