TAMPA, Fla. — While an effort is underway to vaccinate more Americans against COVID-19 vaccines, pharmacists are playing a key role in the effort.
President Biden announced a month-long effort to reach 70 percent of adults with one dose by July 4, including incentives and a reliance on pharmacies.
The president said many vaccination sites, including pharmacies, will offer extended hours during June, including 24 hours on Friday nights.
CVS said it’s participating in the National Month of Action by offering the vaccine at about 500 24-hour locations across the country on certain dates. The company said it will be available through the early evening and early morning hours through walk-ins at those locations on June 11, 18 and 25, with no appointment necessary.
Pharmacists have already been working throughout the pandemic from testing to vaccinating the community, though.
“As a pharmacist, you probably already come to us for your medications or for your over-the-counter questions and so as your pharmacist in your backyard we’re able to ease any of those other questions,” said Johanna Ritchie, a pharmacy manager.
When the pandemic started and the world shut down, their work picked up, from fielding questions and testing to helping with vaccinations.
Ritchie helped coordinate vaccine clinics at long-term care facilities when the rollout first began in Florida.
“What was most rewarding of it all was really the fact that we were the first visitors in almost a year to these patients,” Ritchie said.
Then she and other pharmacists helped provide vaccines to community members as eligibility expanded, even her own mom she said.
“Here we are nearing a year and a half since all of this began it has changed our world and we’re doing our part to be able to bring people together,” said Ritchie.
Pharmacists will likely continue to have a critical role in providing education and access, according to Dr. Kevin Sneed, the dean of the Taneja College of Pharmacy at USF Health.
“The early phase had many community-driven initiatives when it came to delivering the vaccines. I think now what we’re finding is people are now shifting much more of the vaccination effort to the local pharmacy. Typically about 80 to 90 percent of most people across the country live within 2-5 miles of a pharmacy and routinely go to one,” he said.
While Florida is doing better than some states, Sneed said there are a lot more needles they need to put in arms.
“I think we need to continue to get as many needles in arms as quickly as possible. And as we approach that 70 percent mark of having at least one vaccination per person across America I think we have found already even 5 or 10 percent of people that get vaccinated ends up having a marked improvement overall in decreasing the amount of transmission rates,” he said.
Right now, the White House said 63 percent of adults have received at least one dose.