Legislation permits DO and other health professions students to administer vaccines with supervision during future public health emergencies
(Bethesda, MD) – Hailing it as a victory for America’s future pandemic preparedness, the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) applauds US Senators Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Susan Collins (R-ME) for introducing the Student Assisted Vaccination Effort (SAVE) Act. The bipartisan legislation extends existing emergency provisions and makes permanent the ability of health professions students to vaccinate during federally declared public health emergencies.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, AACOM spearheaded Students Assist America (SAA), an interprofessional initiative of 12 associations, with two core goals—while traditional methods of learning were disrupted, enable students to move forward with their clinical education; and create meaningful opportunities for students with valuable skills to help during the pandemic.
“The founding vision for Students Assist America is connected to the osteopathic philosophy of holistic wellness, and we invited the interprofessional health community to call on the unique knowledge and commitment of their students to help the country,” says AACOM President and CEO Robert A. Cain, DO. “Permanently authorizing health professions students to vaccinate during emergencies as proposed by the SAVE Act will better protect our nation’s health and safety in the future. We were honored to work with Senators Kelly and Collins to shape this legislation.”
SAA had advocated for more than a year to allow students to help alleviate burdens on overtaxed health professionals, and in March successfully argued for an amendment to the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act COVID-19 Declaration. The amendment allowed more than one million health professions students to administer COVID-19 vaccines with supervision, laying the groundwork for congressional action to make the change a permanent part of future federal responses. This approach also eliminates confusion experienced at the state level during this pandemic about what options exist for a more robust vaccination workforce, saving time and resources during future emergencies.
“DO students already serve as members of the healthcare workforce during their training, and we knew there was an opportunity to engage them and other health professions students during the COVID-19 crisis,” says William Burke, DO, dean of the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, Dublin and SAA workgroup chair. “It was the right and smart thing to do—both for the public and for our passionate students who will take these learning experiences with them as they care for patients in the future.”
The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) leads and advocates for the full continuum of osteopathic medical education to improve the health of the public. Founded in 1898 to support and assist the nation's osteopathic medical schools, AACOM represents all 37 colleges of osteopathic medicine—educating nearly 31,000 future physicians, 25 percent of all US medical students—at 58 teaching locations in 33 US states, as well as osteopathic graduate medical education professionals and trainees at US medical centers, hospitals, clinics and health systems.
AACOM Director of Media Relations
AACOM Media and Public Affairs Manager