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Pharmacists say they can help speed up vaccination in Canada | Coronavirus

Pharmacists and the nation’s largest chain, Shoppers Drug Mart have so far only had preliminary discussions with some provincial leaders on how the nation’s largest vaccination campaign will unfold.

We anticipate pharmacists will play a role at some point […] don’t know exactly when yet.

Joelle Walker, Vice-President of Public Affairs, Canadian Pharmacists Association

Given their experience with influenza vaccination, the approximately 11,000 pharmacies in the country should be equipped to help in the fight against COVID-19.

The annual flu vaccination campaign, while significant, is much smaller than that of the COVID-19 vaccination, but it takes months to plan.

Pharmacists need to know when they can expect to receive vaccines […] It would be helpful to involve pharmacists early in planning.

Joelle Walker, Vice-President of Public Affairs, Canadian Pharmacists Association

Getting vaccinated in a pharmacy is convenient

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About 90% of Ontario residents live within 3 miles of a pharmacy. And pharmacies are often the only health care options in remote rural communities.

Pharmacists are also used to managing prescription refills, which makes them much better equipped to provide two doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, insists Joelle Walker.

Immunization in Canada got off to a slow start. A month after the start of the campaign, barely 1% of the population received an injection of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

Tens of thousands of the 605,000 doses the federal government has so far shipped to provinces and territories are still in freezers. Manitoba and Nova Scotia were particularly slow, using less than half of the doses received.

UK and US do better

The US and UK authorities have released detailed plans of how pharmacies will participate in the vaccination effort.

In the UK, pharmacies began to be identified in November as suitable vaccination centers. More than 11,500 such sites have been chosen so far to assist with vaccine delivery during the year 2021. These are large-volume community pharmacies with the capacity to deliver 1000 vaccines every week. while meeting strict storage requirements. The national health service said more pharmacies could be added to the list.

This week, 200 pharmacies started administering the vaccine to UK residents and eligible patients can book their vaccination appointments online.

Some UK pharmacists could also be involved in community spaces, such as schools and churches, which have been converted into makeshift clinics.

A customer wearing a mask comes out of a pharmacy.

A customer wearing a mask walks out of a Walgreen’s drugstore and walks past a sign indicating that COVID-19 vaccines are not yet available on December 2, 2020 in Seattle, Washington.

Photo : Associated Press / Elaine Thompson

In the fall, the U.S. federal government hired Walgreen’s, one of the nation’s largest drugstore chains with 9,000 stores nationwide, to immunize residents of long-term care facilities in 35,000 different homes. . Its main competitor, CVS, has also been in demand for vaccination in retirement homes.

The American vaccination campaign began in earnest last week in local pharmacies and in the pharmacies of some grocery chains. With advance notice, the chains were able to recruit thousands of additional pharmacists and technicians to help them. At Walgreen’s alone, 45,000 people are now qualified to administer vaccines.

Tens of thousands of US pharmacies will soon be vaccinating healthcare and frontline workers and Americans over 65.

In total, 60% of pharmacies in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have signed an agreement with the U.S. government to receive doses.

3 million injections per week

A pharmacy technician prepares an injection.

A pharmacy technician at the Michener Institute in Toronto prepares a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Photo: The Canadian Press / Frank Gunn

In Canada, Canadian pharmacies could give three million injections per week. The federal government has said it expects vaccination of the general population to begin in April. Provincial health authorities will decide how to distribute the vaccine to their residents, and the actual rollout may work differently across the country.

Jeff Leger, president of Shoppers Drug Mart, Canada’s leading drugstore chain, said contacts between his company and provincial and territorial leaders improved over the past week.

Provinces are beginning to move from the first phase of vaccine deployment, immunizing the most vulnerable people, to planning for a wider deployment.

I have no doubts that we will get firm plans within the next two weeks. I would say they are very interested in our help.

Jeff Leger, President of Shoppers Drug Mart

This week, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the general population of his province would have access to injections by the summer. Pharmacies should play a crucial role in this effort.

Ontario detailed its vaccination plans for the second phase of the rollout on Wednesday, indicating that pharmacies and clinics could be integrated into the vaccination program.

The number of vaccinations that pharmacies can administer is impressive. During the last flu vaccination campaign, some of the company’s busiest stores were administering up to 600 vaccines per day, Leger said. Shoppers Drug Mart and pharmacies belonging to the Loblaw grocery chain have vaccinated 500,000 people per week against the flu.

That figure could have been even higher if there had been more doses available, he added, saying he was ready to help with the vaccination effort.

Based on information from John Paul Tasker of CBC News

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