San Diego Paramedics Authorized to Administer Hep A Vaccinations

San Diego, CA – The California Emergency Medical Services Authority has granted a temporary expansion of paramedics’ scope of practice, allowing them to administer hepatitis A vaccine while the outbreak continues.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports a three-person team of San Diego paramedics has delivered 81 vaccinations in locations as diverse as Balboa Park canyons and downtown hotels, extending a long-running campaign of foot-team vaccinations conducted by nurses who work for the county health department in an effort to stop the spread of the city’s hepatitis A outbreak which saw its death total hit 20 this week.

Capt. Michael De Guzman said that the experience has been singularly different than what he has experienced throughout his career. Usually, he said, paramedics are called after a medical problem has occurred, but in this case, paramedics are taking preventive action.

To date, the city has only one paramedic team, made up of De Guzman, Capt. Cory Beckwith, a paramedic and Capt. Jodie Pierce, a paramedic and registered nurse.

The temporary extension of vaccination powers requires oversight by an R.N. even though everyone involved knows very well how to give shots and each has received four hours of training from the health department in how to maintain the vaccine, which must be kept cold at all times, and in how to check and update the county’s electronic vaccination registry.

Paramedic vaccination is not unheard of, though it is rare. In 2009, when the H1N1 flu virus caused a global pandemic, some paramedics were temporarily authorized to administer vaccine once it had been developed. Paramedics have also worked to deliver vaccinations after several recent hurricanes.