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Bill would require two epi pens in all Virginia public schools

A bill that would require public schools to maintain two epinephrine pens is a response to death of a 7-year-old student earlier this month from an allergic reaction, Henrico Delegate John O’Bannon said last week.

Amarria Johnson of Chesterfield County suffered an anaphylactic attack Jan. 2 after a student gave her peanuts at recess. School personnel, police and firefighters performed CPR and used an AED on Johnson after she went into cardiac arrest, but were unable to save her, according to a Chesterfield police report.

“This bill is in direct response to that Chesterfield situation,” said O’Bannon, R-73rd, who is a co-patron. “The incidences of allergy and allergic reactions are getting much greater in the community. We need to put these pens where people can use them when the next reaction happens, because there will be another one.”

Del. Riley Ingram, R-62nd, who is also a co-patron, said that the school nurse had not been aware that Johnson had been allergic to peanuts and there had been no medicine available to counteract the allergic reaction. This bill needs to be passed so that this does not happen to another child, Ingram said.

A nurse or trained and authorized school board employee would be able to administer the auto-injectable epinephrine pen to a student with a filed prescription, according to the bill, HB 1156.

The epinephrine may also be injected into a student without a prescription who is thought to be having an anaphylactic reaction. Under the bill, neither the nurse nor the school board member who attended to the student would be liable for any civil damages for negligence.

“I don’t think that the problem of needing a prescription to use a pen should get in the way of this getting done,” O’Bannon said. “This is way too important to let them [the school districts] get in the way of it. I think it can be worked out, and I’m a doctor. If you see a child having an anaphylactic reaction and you wait for a prescription, on the face of it that is stupid.”

The bill may seem like a good solution, but it is a complicated issue and there are a lot of elements to consider in advance, said Judy Enoch, public health nurse supervisor for Chesterfield County Health Department.

The nurse or employee must have adequate training and consider the legal issues, especially if epinephrine is administered to a child who does not have previously identified allergies, Enoch said.

“At this point in time, there could be repercussions,” Enoch said. “Administering medicine to a child to whom it is not proscribed is outside the scope of medical practice for any registered nurse.”

O’Bannon said that he could not think of many times in the past when as many as 18 delegates had united together to propose a bill.

“It’s a common sense bill,” Ingram said. “I think it will be passed. I know this was a very unusual thing [the death of Johnson], but it could happen again.”

Erin Moyer is a reporter for the Capital News Service. CNS reporter Amanda Minnitte also contributed to this article.
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