'We're expecting to get the call': Sask. pharmacists waiting for direction on COVID-19 vaccine rollout
SASKATOON -- Registered pharmacist Myla Bulych says she, along with many other pharmacists in Saskatchewan, are ready and willing to give out the COVID-19 vaccine, but are waiting for direction from the province.
“We’re expecting to get the call and want to help however we can,” Bulych told CTV News.
Bulych said her patients are asking every day about when they’ll be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at a pharmacy — a question she is also waiting to get answered.
“At this point, we haven’t been given any information, but based on the needs of the patient, we seem to be in high demand as we’re very accessible — there’s over 400 pharmacies across the province,” she said, adding that pharmacists are already comfortable administering vaccines such as the flu shot.
However, getting a COVID-19 vaccine at a pharmacy won’t be possible for a while.
Pharmacies don’t have the equipment required to store the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines at low temperatures, Bulych said.
For a COVID-19 vaccine to be administered at a pharmacy, Bulych explained, it would have to be stored at a similar temperature as the flu shot.
The two new vaccines set to be approved, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, are stored at 2 to 8 C, she added, just like the flu shot.
Until then, Bulych said pharmacists will only be able to administer the vaccines in clinics.
According to the government of Saskatchewan’s website, it will consider when pharmacies can deliver COVID-19 vaccines when supply and delivery logistics allow. It said this will likely happen later this year.
There’s also the question of whether pharmacists will be vaccinated before giving others the shot.
Pharmacists are expected to be vaccinated during Phase Two of the Saskatchewan government’s rollout plan, but no official date has been set.
“Ideally we would prefer to be vaccinated before we’re giving the vaccine, but there are other health professionals that work in higher risk situations than us,” Bulych said.
“We will be doing our best when the time comes to give a COVID vaccine to be screening out people that might increase our risk of contracting COVID.”
Dawn Martin, CEO of the Pharmacy Association of Saskatchewan, said it is important for the government to utilize all of the resources it has at hand and that includes all health care providers such as pharmacists.
“It’s kind of all hands on deck at this point,” she said.
“Pharmacists are ready to roll up their sleeves to get the shot and they’re really ready to roll up other people’s sleeves to give the shot, and we just have to figure out the right time for that to happen.”
Martin anticipates the vaccine demand will start to ramp up in April when distribution moves to the general public.
“I think that’s where pharmacists are going to be really, really needed and really involved... to make sure that there is really good access right across the province and certainly at perhaps more convenient times for folks so that they can get as many people vaccinated as possible,” she said.
Martin added that there may even be opportunities for pharmacists to help on a volunteer-basis right now at mass vaccination clinics in the province — something Bulych said she’s willing to do.
“I’d be happy to do it, whether it’s in a community pharmacy or out in a clinic. We’re just waiting for the word and pharmacists will be there to help in the system however we can.”