New York State Department of Health Issues Updated Standing Order to Allow Pharmacists to Administer RSV Vaccines to Older People and Pregnant People Without a Prescription

Department Encourages All Eligible New Yorkers to Receive the RSV Vaccine

ALBANY, N.Y. (November 15, 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 Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) vaccination to individuals 60 and older and pregnant people without a separate prescription from their physician. This updates the original standing order previously issued for older adults. The Department encourages all who are eligible to receive the vaccine now as RSV season in New York most often occurs from September through January.

"This updated standing order expands access to the RSV vaccine, allowing pregnant people to protect their unborn child from RSV and also allows older adults to protect themselves, all with a simple trip to the pharmacy for the vaccine," State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "As RSV can cause serious illness in infants and older adults, I strongly encourage all who are eligible to get the shot now to protect their own health and their loved ones."

Community Pharmacy Association of NYS President Michael Duteau said, "We commend Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald for issuing a statewide standing order to enable the State's pharmacies and pharmacists to provide a convenient and trusted access point for pregnant individuals to receive the RSV vaccine to protect themselves and their unborn babies. The latest order builds on the strong public health partnership between the State and pharmacy providers to better serve the needs of our communities and increase vaccination rates."

Pharmacists Society of the State of New York Board President Leigh McConchie said, "New York pharmacists are proud to have worked closely with the New York State Department of Health and Commissioner Dr. James McDonald in updating New York's standing order. RSV poses a significant risk to infants, and we are thrilled that pregnant New Yorkers are now able to proactively protect their unborn children from this dangerous virus, by making the familiar trip to their neighborhood pharmacy for a readily accessible RSV vaccination."

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

There are two options to help prevent RSV in infants: maternal vaccine for the pregnant person that protects the baby or preventive antibodies given directly to the baby after birth. Pregnant people in week 32 through 36 and six days are encouraged to get the vaccine now to protect infants from birth to six months.

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.

In addition to the standing orders, the Department has published new web pages to help educate the public about RSV.

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 (if eligible).
  • 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.

Learn more about pharmacists as immunizers and standing orders, here.