By: Joshua Lerner
With the task of securing adequate supply of COVID-19 vaccines almost behind us, the focus now turns to distribution. With this in mind, many provinces are now attempting to accelerate vaccinations by authorizing additional regulated health care professionals to administer vaccines. Below is a look at how some provinces are working to jab as many Canadian arms as fast as possible.
In Ontario, changes were made to the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 (the “RHPA”) in January, which permit pharmacy professionals to administer COVID-19 vaccines. The RHPA was amended by way of temporary regulations that will be revoked in March 2022. All members of the Ontario College of Pharmacists, including pharmacists, registered pharmacy students, and pharmacy technicians, may vaccinate as long as they are certified to administer vaccines, and do so while engaged by an organization authorized to administer the vaccine. The College has put forward guidance outlining the expectations and standards for pharmacy professionals administering COVID-19 vaccines. Additionally, the Ministry of Health has created an exemption in the RHPA to allow registered nurses, registered practical nurses, pharmacists, pharmacist interns, and registered pharmacy students and pharmacy technicians to administer the vaccine without an order. Health care professionals authorized to administer the vaccine but are not already registered to do so can apply through Ontario’s Matching Portal.
As part of British Columbia’s mass vaccination campaign, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry issued an order allowing dentists, midwives, pharmacy technicians, paramedics, and retired nurses to administer vaccines. While vaccination may be within the skill set of those who will be newly authorized to do so, each professional will be required to undergo specific COVID-19 vaccination training. By expanding the workforce of potential vaccinators, this order addresses the staffing needs inherent in implementing mass vaccination clinics across the province. However, regardless of whether a health care worker is now eligible pursuant to this order, or was already eligible by virtue of their respective professional standards of practice, they must have the specific competencies established by the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control in order to be qualified to immunize.
In Manitoba, The Minister of Health and Seniors Care issued an order under the province’s Regulated Health Professions Act expanding the professions authorized to administer COVID-19 vaccines. While physicians, nurses, and paramedics were already authorized to vaccinate individuals, the scope of eligible immunizers has been expanded to include physiotherapists, veterinarians, athletic therapists, chiropractors, dentists, dental hygienists, midwives, respiratory therapists, occupational therapists, massage therapists, and optometrists, among other health care professionals. This group is among the broadest of eligible immunizers in Canada, and also includes retired health-care workers and students. In order to ensure that all professionals with a baseline of relevant knowledge and skills are qualified to provide COVID-19 vaccines, any professional without specified immunization training is required to complete a vaccination course, which the province is offering free of charge.
The above provides only a snapshot of the expanded vaccination efforts; other provinces are also expanding the eligibility criteria to administer vaccines. To facilitate the training of health workers in vaccinations, the Public Health Agency of Canada is providing provincial and territorial health organizations with complimentary registrations for the Education Program for Immunization Competencies course, as well as programs on vaccine hesitancy. All of the above regulations and orders are intended to be temporary measures to deal with an overwhelming pandemic. Once there is no longer a need for mass COVID-19 vaccination, the measures will be revoked. The expanded scope of eligible vaccinators is just one example of a plethora of measures implemented by governments in response to an overwhelming public health crisis that has impacted every facet of daily life.
All professionals administering vaccines must ensure they act in accordance with the relevant regulations as well as the standards of practice governed by their respective regulatory bodies. We encourage any health care professional or organization with questions about the implications of the above measures to contact our office.
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