Though it feels like we have been living under the threat of COVID forever, the three-year Public Health Emergency declaration ends this month. Yet even as we applaud this move and the progress it represents, it’s important to note that COVID has not gone away.  It’s still important to be vaccinated and to quickly treat the virus—especially for older Texans.

The good news is that access to COVID vaccines and treatments will remain for now. To help maintain the progress we see in the decline of cases and hospitalizations, the government will continue to provide them to eligible Americans at no cost, and they will be covered by Medicaid and Medicare until September 2024.

Saul Anuzis

The ability to get COVID or flu vaccines at a pharmacy is another good thing that won’t change after May 11. This is particularly good news for rural Texans and others who can’t get a doctor’s appointment quickly. While getting to a doctor’s office can be a challenge, 9 out of 10 Americans live within five miles of a pharmacy.

Texans, like many Americans, are increasingly turning to pharmacies to get more than the COVID vaccine—which is why we need state lawmakers to act to expand the law so that pharmacies can administer all FDA- and CDC-endorsed vaccinations.

Nearly half of states have either passed or filed legislation to expand pharmacists and pharmacy technician’s authority to administer more vaccines, and Texas should join them.

The Texas Department of Health and Human Services maintains an Immunization Unit, which aims to “eliminate the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases by increasing vaccine coverage for Texans, raise awareness of the diseases that vaccines prevent, and educate the public about vaccine safety.” Lawmakers can assist the State in meeting these worthy goals by making vaccines readily available. Availability close to where people are each day can only help get more of us vaccinated. The same is true for the ability to get treatments easily at the pharmacy.

A pharmacist can test for viruses such as COVID, flu and pneumonia. And instead of having to make another stop to get a prescription, they can prescribe the proper treatment right then and there.

When people get treated quickly, they get better quickly—and are less likely to pass viruses onto others. A healthier, stronger population that can keep the state working and moving forward benefits all Texans.

I urge Texas lawmakers to prioritize these smart public health initiatives. We don’t know when or if there will be another pandemic, but if there is, Americans will be better protected the next time.

Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by Saul Anuzis, president of 60 Plus American Association of Senior Citizens, a national nonprofit advocacy group. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service with the permission of the author. Anuzis can be reached by email via: [email protected].

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