Expanding the Pharmaceutical Scope of Practice (Again)

by Mina Karabit January 19, 2021 2 min read

Like other professionals, pharmacists have been adjusting to an expanded scope of practice as all health professionals work to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. We wrote about some of these changes in our previous blog posts.

Last week, the Minister of Health made additional changes to the Regulated Health Professions Actrelevant to pharmacy professionals. Now, members of the Ontario College of Pharmacists — including pharmacists, interns, registered pharmacy students, or pharmacy technicians — can administer coronavirus vaccines by injection. These individuals must be certified to administer vaccines and must do so while being engaged by an organization that has an agreement with the Minister governing the administration of the vaccine (e.g., a hospital).

Under the same regulations, nurses in the general or extended class and registered practical nurses in the general class are also permitted to administer COVID-19 vaccines under similar restrictions and conditions.

These changes to the regulations will be revoked in March 2022, by which time we sincerely hope the pandemic will be over.

Ontario pharmacists already administer over a dozen types of vaccines for vaccine=preventable diseases including, Hepatitis, influenza, and typhoid. Adding the COVID-19 vaccines into pharmacy professionals’ roster will their regular roster will ensure greater access to the vaccines, especially for Ontarians living in rural and remote areas.

Changes in Scope of Practice that Will Outlast The COVID-19 Pandemic

While the ability to administer the COVID-19 vaccines will be time-limited, other changes in the scope of pharmacists’ practice will be more permanent. 

In May 2019, the Ontario Minister of Health directed the Ontario College of Pharmacists to submit draft regulations that would expand the scope of practice for pharmacists, including:

  1. Administering the flu vaccine to patients as young as two years old;
  2. Renewing prescriptions in quantities of up to a 12-month supply;
  3. Administering certain substances by injection and/ or inhalation for purposes that are in addition to patient education and demonstration; and
  4. Prescribing drugs for certain minor ailments.

These proposed draft regulations underwent public consultation and were finally submitted to the Ministry of Health in November 2019. The regulations underwent a further public consultation after being posted on Ontario’s Regulatory Registry.

In December 2020, the Minister approved the first two activities, while the third and fourth have yet to be approved. Now, Ontario pharmacists are authorized to: 

  • Administer the flu vaccine to children as young as two years old (previously as young as five); and
  • Renew prescriptions in quantities of up to one year’s supply (previously up to six month’s supply).

Pharmacists cannot yet treat or prescribe medications for minor ailments, but the proposed list of “minor aliments” include:

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Dermatitis
  • Insect bites, including tick bites, as well as hives
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Candidal stomatitis
  • Herpes labialis
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
  • Dysmenorrhea
  • Musculoskeletal sprains and strains
  • Impetigo

Minor ailments are described as health conditions that can be managed with minimal treatment and/or self-care strategies.

NOTE: A blog post is never a substitute for legal advice specific to your circumstances, particularly when surrounding circumstances are changing rapidly.


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