Pharmacists busier than ever with vaccines

Patti Taylor takes inventory before the start of the working day. The Kensington pharmacy is extra busy in these days, and preparation is key. Morgan Campbell photo.

By Morgan Campbell

April 15, 2021

It was a busy day for Patti Taylor.

She and the rest of the pharmacy staff were getting ready to begin a series of vaccinations for young people and frontline workers. The Astrazeneca vaccines were waiting in the refrigerator.

It was 38 minutes before the first appointment when the call came.

Every appointment was to be cancelled due to some problem with the vaccines. Public health officials didn’t offer any more details.

The rest of the day was spent taking calls from people asking why their appointments were being cancelled and from people who had already been vaccinated asking if they should be worried. Taylor had no answers for them.

“That was a pretty crazy day, that day.”

Taylor and the other pharmacists learned the truth of the situation at the same time as everyone else, during a public health briefing at noon that day.

In a few isolated cases, the Astrazeneca vaccine had caused blood clotting in people who received it. The clotting issue appears in four to six people in every million vaccinated.

Taylor works at Murphy’s Pharmacy in Kensington, one of the six pharmacies picked in the area to administer vaccinations. These days, she has had her hands full.

“I’d say we are 30-40% busier than we were before all this.”

Taylor says the pharmacy wasn’t prepared for the pandemic when it started, but according to her, that’s normal in her line of work. Taylor says pharmacists have to be quick thinkers, always anticipating the unexpected.

“That’s just part of the pharmacist brain.”

Pharmacists like her are used to reacting to things on short notice, and for her the pandemic is no different.

“None of us were prepared for this, but you deal with it.”

The pandemic has brought new challenges with it. There is more cleaning to do and more consideration in handling customers. It is difficult for the pharmacists to follow social distancing rules behind the counter. Consultations are now happening over the phone.

Taylor is used to giving flu shots, but the process of giving COVID-19 vaccines is a much more involved process.

“It’s more than just sitting down, popping the needle then you’re gone.”

People have to keep to a strict schedule. There are no waiting rooms because of social distancing rules. Astrazeneca vaccines must be kept between two and eight degrees at all times.

One thing she hasn’t experienced is people being reluctant to get the vaccine.

In her experience, most people have been very enthusiastic to be vaccinated.

“Most people’s attitude is ‘Let’s do this.’”

One of those people is 77-year-old Dave Thomas.

“When I first heard they were vaccinating, my first thought was, ‘I’m going to get one as soon as I can.”

Thomas is a firm believer in vaccines, and although he hates needles, gets his flu shot every year.

Dave Thomas shows off the sticker he got after his vaccination. He gets a flu shot every year and was happy to get the vaccine as soon as he could. Morgan Campbell photo.

He got his shot at the Holland College centre in Summerside. It was a larger space, so there was room for a waiting area, and he says he only had to wait five minutes.

Since his vaccine on April 5, he hasn’t experienced any side effects.

He says the vaccine has brought him huge relief.

“I’m 77, so I’m in the age group that would get hit hard I would think.”

A week and a half after his vaccination, he says he is feeling better every day. Others in his family are more skeptical of getting vaccinated, however.

His wife’s sister called him with worries over getting the vaccine. She read something online that made her not want to take it.

“It’s a shame, because she has medical conditions that would make it useful.”

The former veterinarian is no stranger to giving shots himself. “I just told her that I’ve saved more lives vaccinating than doing anythin