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State Law and Standing Orders for Immunization Services

Published:December 01, 2015DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2015.10.003

      Introduction

      This study determined whether state laws permit the implementation of standing orders programs (SOPs) for immunization practice. SOPs are an effective strategy to increase uptake of vaccines. Successful SOPs require a legal foundation authorizing delegation of immunization services performed by a wide range of providers, administered to broad patient populations, in several settings. Without legal permission to administer vaccines, non-physician health professionals (NPHPs) are unable to provide preventive services.

      Methods

      From 2012 through 2013, researchers analyzed the legal environment in 50 states and the District of Columbia to determine whether NPHPs are authorized to (1) assess patient immunization status; (2) prescribe vaccines; and (3) administer vaccines under their own practice license or delegated authority. Laws governing the following NPHPs were included: (1) medical assistants; (2) midwives; (3) nurses in advanced practice; (4) registered, practical, and vocational nurses; (5) physician assistants; and (6) pharmacists. Additionally, the review determined which vaccines may be administered, permissible patient populations, and allowable practice settings for each category of NPHP.

      Results

      The laws are highly variable, and no state authorizes all NPHPs to conduct all elements of immunization practice for all patients. The laws frequently indicate where NPHPs may or may not administer vaccines and outline permissible vaccines, eligible patients, and required level of supervision.

      Conclusions

      The variation in the laws could potentially present a challenge to successful implementation of public health goals to improve immunization rates. Expanded authorization of SOPs in all states could increase health practitioners’ ability to deliver recommended vaccines.
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