The Saskatchewan Health Authority has recruited pharmacists across Saskatchewan to help administer the COVID-19 vaccines as part of Phase 2 of the vaccine roll-out strategy.
Pharmacy Manager at Rx Drug Mart Moosomin, Kari Meyers, says they were happy to help when the SHA asked.
“We have been on board with giving injections for the past couple of years and we’ve been doing more and more with seasonal flu shots every year, offering those to our local customers. With the COVID-19 vaccine becoming available a lot of pharmacies in the areas, us included, said we were on board. If they want to utilize the pharmacy services to administer the COVID-19 vaccine, we’re happy to help. The Saskatchewan Health Authority and the College of Pharmacy Professionals had been in talks with seeing where our role is. It was partially based around how much vaccine is available and if Public Health can handle it themselves or if it could be done quicker by utilizing pharmacists.
“They have big shipments coming in, so they’re able to utilize pharmacy services because they know we’re successful. We’re some of the most successful health professionals in Saskatchewan. It’s very easy for somebody to come into a pharmacy and get a vaccine.”
Meyers says they will expect their first shipment of vaccines within the first week of April.
“We are still waiting because we’re not part of Phase 1 of immunization which is supposed to be coming to an end shortly. Pharmacies will be giving the COVID vaccines in April, we’re told it could be as early as April 1st, but we expect it’ll just be sometime within the first week,” said Meyers.
She explains they will have to store the vaccines themselves on-site but are unsure which vaccine they will be receiving.
“We’ll have to store the vaccine. What they’ll be doing is they’ll be providing us with the vaccine the same way we order other medications. We aren’t sure which vaccine we’re getting, but if it’s the Moderna vaccine, it’s stored in a freezer. But when it’s exposed to fridge temperatures it’s good for 30 days. We don’t know for sure yet. Pharmacies have medication-specific fridges to store medication in, and that’s where we’d store the vaccine.”
Pharmacists will administer the vaccines either at the pharmacy or a nearby site dedicated to immunization.
Meyers says that as the Rx Drug Mart buildingincudes a separate space that was formerly a walk-in clinic, the pharmacists will be able to administer the vaccine at the pharmacy itself.
“We would be administering it here at the pharmacy. Public Health is going to be operating clinics and they’ll be part of the central booking system, but pharmacies will not be through that same booking system, you’d have to book a vaccine through the pharmacy directly.
The actual administration of the vaccine, if it’s from a pharmacist, will be at that pharmacy.
“We have a space in the front of our store that used to be a doctor’s office. Now it’s an empty space with what would be treatment rooms in there. We’re going to do our COVID vaccines there, just as we did with our flu shots. It provides the person getting the vaccine privacy as well as low traffic. With the pandemic itself, we’re trying for the six feet of distancing and keeping low numbers in the store. It provides us with that separate space so we don’t have the person getting the vaccine directly in the waiting area.”
Meyers says that Rx Drug Mart in Moosomin has two qualified employees who can administer the vaccines, and thanks to operating a flu clinic through the pandemic, pharmacists are prepared for Phase 2.
“We’re 100% ready to go I think the flu-shot season in the middle of the pandemic really prepared us to safely and effectively offer the COVID vaccine.”
Leann Hanna, a pharmacist from the Moosomin Pharmasave, says they are also prepared to help Public Health where needed.
“We are part of Phase 2, so right now they’re still working on Phase 1 and vaccinating the eligible seniors ages 70 plus and eligible health care workers. Public Health is doing all that, but once we make it to Phase 2 and make the vaccine available to people under 70, then we will have access to the vaccine so that we can be vaccinating along with Public Health, so they can have their clinics and we can pick up as many people as we can to help them out.”
Hanna explains that the pharmacists will be administering the vaccine in the same location they held their flu-clinic.
“We are going to be off-site, same as we did for the influenza season in the old Sears building. That’s where we’ll be running our COVID-19 clinics.”
She says all the equipment is ready to go to handle Phase 2.
“It has not changed since we did our influenza clinics, it’s still set up. We have a couple of semi-private booths there. So we’ll have the reception there to greet and direct them, then when the pharmacist is ready to give them their injection, they will be called into one of the booths. There’s also a waiting area there as they’ll be required to wait for 15 minutes following the injection.”
Hanna says that they are also in a waiting game to see which vaccine they will receive and when they will receive it.
“We’re in a waiting game right now. We don’t know which vaccine we’ll be getting, we don’t know how much we’ll be getting, we don’t know when we’ll be getting it. They say the earliest we’ll see it is April 1st, but that doesn’t mean we’ll have it on April 1st,” explained Hanna.
She adds that pharmacists have access to online training material to help prepare them for the different steps necessary to administer the various COVID-19 vaccines.
“I think we’re prepared. There are online training courses for each particular vaccine because they all have their own specific details as far as administering them. I have watched some of them, but I’m just waiting for them to let us know which one we’re getting so we can do the specific training that is available.”
The SHA is hoping to administer the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to all Saskatchewan residents who want them by the end of June.
Spencer Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The World-Spectator