Joyce Leads Bipartisan Effort to Improve Vaccination Efforts in Future Public Health Emergencies

Oct 25, 2021
Health Care
Press

WASHINGTON, DC – Last week, Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) introduced the Student Assisted Vaccination Effort Act with Congressman Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01) as well as Congressman David McKinley (WV-01) and Congresswoman Roybal-Allard (CA-40). Known as the SAVE Act, this bipartisan legislation would permanently allow qualified health professions students to administer vaccinations in future public health emergencies.

“This pandemic made it painfully clear that any delay in distributing safe and effective vaccines in our communities costs lives,” said Congressman Joyce, Co-Chair of the Congressional Nursing Caucus. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this important legislation to ensure that the United States has the ability to quickly engage all qualified hands to vaccinate Americans in any future public health emergency. To protect the American people and our way of life, we need our nurses, pharmacists, medical students and other brave health care professionals on the front lines both now and in the future.”

“At the beginning of this year, safe, effective, free vaccines helped us finally turn the corner on this deadly pandemic and begin a return to more normal life. However, many families struggled initially to get vaccinated in their communities, citing low availability of appointments, long wait times, and far drives to mass vaccination sites,” said O’Halleran.“Today, I’m proud to lead this bipartisan group in introducing legislation that expands vaccine distribution privileges to those qualified to administer them—our hardworking medical students, registered nurses, pharmacists, and more—to ensure that vaccine availability remains widespread and accessible.”

“The pandemic reminded us of the important role front line health workers play in our system,” said McKinley. “The SAVE Act will allow students in health fields to contribute to the health and well-being of their communities. They have played an important role in our response to COVID and the campaign to get more Americans vaccinated, and they should play a similar role in addressing future public health challenges.”

“As Co-Chair of both the Congressional Public Health Caucus and the Congressional Nursing Caucus, I am proud to be an original cosponsor of this commonsense legislation that would ensure there will always be an adequate supply of qualified individuals to administer vaccinations during public health emergencies,” said Rep. Roybal-Allard. “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the many challenges our nation faces when we need rapid dispensation of vaccines. By making the PREP Act amendment permanent and allowing medical, nursing, and other health care profession students to administer life-saving vaccinations, we will improve the speed and efficiency with which our country responds to future public health crises.” 

“Our nation’s nursing students have stepped up in unprecedented ways in the recovery efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic,” said American Nursing Association President Ernest Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN. “Congress should recognize their now proven abilities by passing the SAVE Act. This legislation would make permanent the ability of health professions students, including nursing students, to administer vaccines during a federally declared public health emergency. The pandemic has emphasized the role that vaccinations play in protecting public health, and the availability of booster shots only increases the need for qualified vaccinators. By passing this legislation, Congress can secure the health and safety of our communities, and help bring this persistent pandemic to an end. I want to thank Reps. Tom O’Halleran and Dave Joyce for leading this important legislation as we continue on the road to recovery.”

“When disaster strikes, nursing students are typically among the first to step up and volunteer to offer help to protect the public,” said Dr. Deborah Trautman, President and CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. “Supporting the SAVE Act will help to fortify the nation’s public health safety net and ensure that nursing students can be utilized most effectively to combat public health threats.” 

“Throughout the pandemic, nursing students have served on the frontlines providing health care and education that were essential to keeping communities safe,” said Dr. Susan Bakewell-Sachs, Board Chair for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.  “Passing the SAVE Act with the support of Representative David Joyce would help to ensure that students can be effectively mobilized and deployed as an essential part of future emergency response efforts.”  

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Public Health Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act has been amended seven times to allow additional categories of health professionals to vaccinate the public, including: physicians, registered nurses, practical nurses who have recently expired licenses, state-licensed pharmacists, supervised pharmacy interns, federal government employees, contractors, or volunteers with a federal department or agency, and medical and other health professions students who are trained to give injections with supervision.

However, these amendments last only for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency, meaning that once the COVID-19 emergency declaration ends, the groups included as qualified persons through these amendments will no longer be considered in the definition. The bipartisan SAVE Act would permanently allow qualified health professions students to help with vaccinations in future public health emergencies. By making this provision permanent, students will be immediately eligible to assist in future emergencies, bypassing the lengthy PREP Act amendment process and enabling critical health institutions to meet the need for rapid deployment in any future health emergency.
 

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