Bill Introduced to Permanently Integrate Health Professions Students Into Future Public Health Response Efforts
On June 17, Senators Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the Student Assisted Vaccination Effort (SAVE) Act, bipartisan legislation designed to improve future public health crisis preparedness by permanently providing health professions students immunity from liability when participating in a coordinated response to a declared public health emergency.
In 2005, Congress passed the Public Readiness Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act to improve the efficiency of public health emergency response efforts by empowering the Secretary of Health and Human Services to provide immunity from liability claims to individuals or organizations involved in the dissemination of medical countermeasures. While the statute allows the Secretary discretion in defining covered persons for liability immunity purposes, health professions students are not explicitly included under current law.
Following the advocacy efforts of the Students Assist America initiative – an interprofessional coalition of 12 health professions education associations – the Secretary of Health and Human Services issued a PREP Act declaration amendment in March expanding liability immunity to health professions students. This protection allowed states and municipalities to more readily integrate students into COVID-19 vaccination efforts to accelerate the distribution process.
“The introduction of the SAVE Act is a crucial milestone in the federal government’s efforts to improve preparedness to respond to future public health emergencies. We strongly support this legislation and urge rapid Senate consideration of the bill,” said PAEA CEO Mary Jo Bondy, DHEd, MHS, PA-C.
Following introduction, PAEA sent a letter to the offices of Sens. Collins and Kelly indicating the Association’s strong support for the legislation and its commitment to collaboration to secure its enactment.
Members with questions on the SAVE Act are invited to contact Tyler Smith at tsmith@PAEAonline.org.