Some pharmacies to start vaccinations this week
April 27, 2021, 9:31 am
Spencer Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Some Saskatchewan pharmacies will begin delivering vaccines to the general public this week starting on April 26.
Pharmacies will administer COVID-19 vaccines as part of Phase Two of the Government of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine Delivery Plan.
CEO of the Pharmacy Association of Saskatchewan Dawn Martin says that pharmacies across Saskatchewan are ready to go for phase two.
“Our pharmacies have been ready to go for a while. Some of them maybe have been too small for the number of doses going out, but we have close to 390 pharmacies that have registered to provide the vaccine. What’s happening this week is the beginning of the process of adding pharmacies to the initiative. This week and the following weeks are really an initial stage to test how this is going to work and how this will roll out with Pfizer, and Pfizer is challenging to distribute because of its need for freezing and then a quick distribution after it thaws,” Martin explained.
“We’re just trying to start slowly and just really test that out to make sure that as we ramp up vaccinations through May it is as smooth as possible. We want to get this going, we want to get it out and get it into people’s arms.
“Every week after this week will be highly dependant on the vaccine supply and we’re trying to do it in a way that is consistent and under the current Public Health direction, categories and strategy. We’re really trying to layer in an additional capacity to what is already happening so we’re not creating any problems. We also want to be sure to supply areas that have already had a certain vaccine with more so that they can have access to it when they go to get their second dose.”
Following the recent announcement that pharmacy staff and grocery workers that operate in the same facility where the vaccines are being distributed will be vaccinated, Martin says that pharmacies will have to balance the distribution of the vaccine to staff and the general public.
“Another factor is the announcement and the plan to vaccinate grocery store workers when there’s a pharmacy co-located within a larger grocery store when we can because they are essential and they are working very closely with the public and providing services that we all need very much. We’re going to be factoring in that, but we need to balance the larger demand on that limited supply of vaccine that is coming out in the next couple of weeks.”
This week there will be 60 pharmacies in 12 communities that will distribute the Pfizer vaccine.
In the week of May 3, Pharmasave and Rx Drug Mart in Moosomin are scheduled to receive their doses to distribute.
Pharmacies in Esterhazy are hoping to receive their doses later in May.
Due to distribution issues with the Pfizer vaccine and it’s need to be frozen, pharmacies in Rocanville, Kipling, and Redvers will see minor delays in receiving doses.
“We have a pretty solid idea of where and how this will roll out. That list will be available shortly and be made available to the public and on websites so people know where the pharmacies are located,” Martin noted.
“Everywhere that has a pharmacy that is ready to provide vaccines to the public will have access to vaccine distribution there as well. Where there aren’t any pharmacies that can administer the vaccine, the SHA will fill in those gaps.”
Martin explains that around 390 pharmacies across Saskatchewan out of a total of 416 have signed up to deliver COVID-19 vaccines as part of phase two.
She says that not all pharmacies are equipped to deliver the vaccine, however.
“There are 416 pharmacies in the province, and we have close to 390 that have signed up. But there are some that are not set up well to manage or they haven’t done the training to provide those services, or they just don’t have the capacity needed for the intensity of this particular vaccination campaign. That number, 390, is very consistent with our year-over-year flu-shot numbers.
“Some of them are also satellite pharmacies that offer limited services like making sure that prescription distribution is getting to other communities and that sort of thing. Even though we have a really high level of participation it will never be 100 per cent. That being said, there are probably a few pharmacies that will come on once they get more situated and have the necessary training and capacity, and we know there are a few of those.”
Martin says that moving forward she anticipates the Government of Saskatchewan will rely on pharmacies more for the distribution of vaccines outside of COVID-19.
“Pharmacists expanded their scope of practice to include the provision of vaccinations via injection about six years ago. Every year, pharmacists have provided more and more of the flu vaccination which has ultimately freed up Public Health to do other things. I think that the government is well aware of what pharmacies can do and how they can help out.
“I think that this has become more ingrained. On a provincial and national level with a situation like this, we know that you want to do is gather all the resources you can, all those people that are trained to do this kind of service, and make sure that you’re utilizing them as a system. I think that what has happened is this has become more ingrained, especially when you look at the necessary planning that has to go on and how many people and how quickly you have to get vaccinated. This is a no-brainer and the government is well aware of that. They’re just trying to build us in and layer us in as they’ve understood what has happened with vaccine supply and distribution and they’re adding pharmacies into this planning.
“As we test this, as we get this up and running and start providing more shots, pharmacies will become one of the go-to places for this to happen.”
Martin applauds the Government of Saskatchewan in its step-based approach to vaccine delivery.
She says that the slower approach has allowed pharmacies to be adequately prepared for vaccine distribution.
“I think pharmacies were certainly ready to be utilized sooner but there were many things that we had to look at, not the least of which is ensuring that pharmacists had the training that was required which is vaccine-specific, I think that this has been a very solid plan to make sure that as pharmacies are layered into the initiative they are ready to rock and that we can avoid some of the challenges and confusion. We’ve worked hard to make sure that we are able to communicate properly that we know what the vaccine distribution is going to look like and we understand the capacity of pharmacies much better than if we had tried to rush it out the door without having full information.
“I think that as eager as our pharmacies were to get this vaccine out sooner, I think this has been done in a very managed, step-based approach which I believe is better than if we rushed this out the door.”
Martin remains positive that vaccines will be made available to the entire general public by late May and early June.
“Vaccinations are so highly contingent on supply. The idea is certainly still within the next four to six weeks that everybody has their first shots. That would include every adult over 18. There could be more supply challenges and it will depend on people themselves and how quickly or not they’re going to get their vaccine.
“I would say that if supply continues and we’re able to wrap up pharmacies in a way that will support the larger initiative, everybody should have their vaccine in the latter part of May and into June with all the factors that are involved.
“We hope to have staff in pharmacies and accompanying grocery stores to be vaccinated a little bit sooner given the focus of the prioritization of front-line staff with these vaccines going out to pharmacies. I think they can expect their vaccines in three to four weeks, but that’s highly contingent on supply.”