New York State Department of Health, in Partnership with State Education Department, Takes Steps Necessary to Ensure RSV Vaccine for Adults Over Age 60 Will Be Administered in Pharmacies Statewide

DOH, Working with SED, Issued Determination Letter Adding RSV to List of Vaccines Pharmacists Can Administer

DOH Encourages New Yorkers to Reduce Risk of Respiratory Illnesses and Get Vaccinated

ALBANY, N.Y. (August 8, 2023) – The New York State Department of Health, in partnership with the State Education Department, has issued a determination letter and taken the steps necessary to make it possible for the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) vaccine to soon be administered to adults ages 60 and older in pharmacies statewide, in addition to being available from other trusted health care providers. Expanding pharmacists' vaccine administration abilities has happened just weeks after the FDA recommended the RSV vaccine for those 60 and older, and as New Yorkers prepare for the fall season when respiratory viruses typically spread.

"We have been searching for a safe, effective RSV vaccine for decades. These two new RSV vaccines are important new tools to prevent this disease in New Yorkers ages 60 and older," State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "RSV still does not have a specific treatment, and this is a great example where an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. I am so glad this will be available in New York pharmacies, where patients feel at home."

New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr. said, "This determination is a major victory for access and equity in health care. Research indicates RSV has a major impact on infants and older adults living in communities that often have limited access to health care resources. Pharmacists play a critical role in expanding access and increasing vaccination rates. I applaud Commissioner McDonald for this decision, which takes us one step further toward providing equitable and obtainable health care for all New Yorkers."

New York State Department of Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa said,"The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the importance of allowing pharmacists to administer vaccinations. Pharmacists are trusted members of our communities. Those relationships and that trust are crucial in building public confidence in vaccinations. We are proud to work with our partners at the Department of Health to ensure pharmacists continue to be an essential access point for care to all New Yorkers."

RSV is a highly contagious virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms but can be serious, especially in infants and older adults. In adults it can cause pneumonia, infections of the bronchioles (bronchiolitis), and can exacerbate underlying chronic lung disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year in the U.S., RSV leads to approximately 60,000-120,000 hospitalizations and 6,000-10,000 deaths among adults 65 years of age and older. Adding RSV to the list of vaccinations that pharmacists are allowed to administer will expand access the vaccine, improving outcomes for vaccinated individuals exposed to the virus.

Pharmacists have been administering vaccinations in New York State since 2008 and have been a center-point of providing vaccinations against several diseases, which ultimately has kept hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers safe. Pharmacists' training and education as well as the nature of their work gives them the opportunity and safe space to administer vaccines to prevent and/or mitigate communicable diseases. They provide a convenient point of access in the community, which helps build trust in vaccination on a general level.

Pharmacists are a valuable part of the health care team that is needed to expand vaccination availability to adults 60 years of age and older who are frequent visitors to pharmacies and who need protection against RSV disease. In addition, the RSV vaccine will be covered under Medicare Part D, which will mean many adults can more easily access the vaccine in their pharmacy.

This is the first time DOH and SED have used Chapter 555 of the laws of 2021 allowing the Commissioner of Health to issue a determination in consultation with the Commissioner of State Education.

To protect against respiratory viruses, the Department of Health recommends commonsense precautions, including:

  • Staying up to date on all vaccines.
  • Washing your hands often with soap and hot water for least 20 seconds.
  • Not coughing or sneezing into your hands.
  • Regularly washing hands and using good hygiene.
  • Staying home when sick or symptomatic.
  • Wearing a well-fitting, high-quality mask when in public indoor spaces.

More information is available here about RSV.