New York State Department of Health Issues Standing Order to Allow Pharmacists to Administer RSV Vaccines to Older Adults Without a Prescription

New Yorkers Age 60 and Over are Encouraged to Get Vaccinated for RSV

Older Adults are Susceptible to Complications from RSV Disease

ALBANY, N.Y. (October 16, 2023) – The New York State Department of Health today announced that State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald has issued a statewide standing order allowing pharmacists in New York State to administer the RSV vaccination to adults 60 years and older without a separate prescription from their physician. Older adults are susceptible to complications from RSV and are encouraged to get the vaccine now, as respiratory viruses typically spread in the fall and winter seasons.

"Respiratory Syncytial Virus, RSV, mainly effects infants and older adults. We now have a safe and effective vaccine for individuals 60 and older with underlying medical conditions," State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "This standing order allows eligible adults to get this vaccine at their pharmacy, where we know people feel at home."

"The Pharmacists Society of the State of New York commends the New York State Department of Health, the State Education Department and Commissioner James McDonald for the prioritization of community health by authorizing RSV vaccination in pharmacies statewide via a non-patient-specific signed standing order," Deanna Ennello-Butler, Executive Director of the Pharmacy Society of the State of New York said. "Respiratory syncytial virus can pose significant risks to adults aged 60 and older. Following the FDA's recommendation for widespread vaccination in this age group, the vaccine will become readily accessible to all New Yorkers at their local neighborhood pharmacies. With the help and expertise of qualified and trusted pharmacists, all communities throughout the state can protect themselves from spreading and becoming ill from this serious illness."

The statewide non-patient specific standing order will expand access to the vaccine, and improve outcomes for vaccinated individuals exposed to the virus.

The standing order is the final step to allow the RSV vaccine to be administered in pharmacies, in addition to being available from other trusted health care providers. In August, the Department, along with the State Education Department, issued a determination letter adding RSV to the list of vaccines pharmacists can administer just weeks after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended the RSV vaccine for older adults.

The RSV vaccine helps protect adults 60 years and older from RSV disease. Older adults are at greater risk for serious complications from RSV because immune systems weaken with age. In addition, certain underlying conditions, such as chronic heart or lung disease, may increase the risk of getting very sick from RSV. Adults living in long-term care facilities may especially benefit from getting the vaccine.

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.

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

  • Staying up to date on all vaccines, including the RSV vaccine.
  • Washing hands often with soap and hot water for least 20 seconds.
  • Not coughing or sneezing into hands.
  • Staying home when sick or symptomatic.

Those wishing to further protect themselves from respiratory viruses such as RSV disease may consider wearing a well-fitting, high-quality mask when in public indoor spaces.

More information about RSV is available here.