Avi Singh draws up a dose of the Pfizer vaccine during a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Oregon State Fairgrounds on Thursday, Jan. 28. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
Over the course of his career as a pharmacist, Trushar Patel has given out hundreds of vaccinations.
He’s never been as excited as he is about the vaccination he hopes to begin administering on Monday.
Patel is the owner of five Oregon pharmacies, including Physicians' Building Pharmacy, located at 1234 Commercial St S.E. in Salem. If the snow and ice expected over the weekend clear up enough, he’ll begin offering vaccination for Covid at the Salem pharmacy, as well as others he owns in Tillamook and Gold Beach Feb. 15.
“We are perfectly fit for this,” said Patel, who earned his doctor of pharmacy in 2013. Pharmacists are the most accessible doctoral-level medical professional, he said, pointing out that his pharmacies have routinely administered vaccinations for the flu, shingles and other maladies.
Physician’s Building Pharmacy is among the 127 retail pharmacies in 27 of Oregon’s 36 counties that will begin offering Covid vaccinations on Monday as part of federal and state efforts to expand the availability of vaccines. State and federal health authorities are directing the vaccines to Safeway, Albertsons and Costco, as well as Health Mart, a network of independent pharmacies that Patel’s are affiliated with.
Matthew DiLoreto, vice president of state government affairs for the Healthcare Distribution Alliance, said making the Covid vaccination available in retail pharmacies has been part of the federal vaccination plan and was accelerated by the Biden administration to deliver to more people inoculated.
The vaccination rollout across the U.S. has been criticized for being sluggish and confusing for health care workers, seniors and other priority groups. DiLoreto said the distributors his group represents have delivered 68 million doses nationally but only 46 have been administered. In Oregon, he said that 840,475 have been delivered with 589,035 administered.
Oregon, and other states, have held mass vaccination events at places like the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem. DiLoreto said that while retail pharmacies won’t be able to vaccinate people at the same volume, they’ll provide a steady stream of shots that’ll improve availability, particularly in more rural or suburban areas.
“One of the most accessible health care providers long before the pandemic is your community pharmacy,” he said. “ Every town has a pharmacy.”
But he said that despite the improved distribution, there will still be issues around adequate supply of the vaccines.
During a press briefing on Friday, Dr. Pat Allen, the director of the Oregon Health Authority, said the day before 14,004 doses had been administered to Oregonians. With 10% of the state’s population having received at least one dose, Oregon is tied at 17th in the nation for the percentage of people given at least the initial shot.
Allen has previously said that the Oregon Health Authority has had to keep doses on hand to ensure that second shots are available for people who have had their first.
He said Oregon’s seven-day rolling average of shots administered is 17,341 and the state is on track to vaccinate 70% of the 720,000 people initially eligible for the vaccination by early April. This week, people 80 and older became eligible and despite “some rough patches” the state is on track to move forward with offering the inoculation to people 75 and older next week, he said.
On Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that by April the country could see “open season” for vaccinations with anyone who wants one able to schedule an appointment.
During the press briefing, Stephen Certo, who oversees pharmacy operations for Safeway and Albertsons in Oregon and southern Washington, said that the company already has appointments booked to administer 5,000 doses. He said the company would like to schedule more vaccinations but can’t because of uncertainty over supply.
Patel said 100 doses of the Moderna vaccine are stored in the refrigerators at each of his three pharmacies.
Each vial, he said, contains 10 doses and is good for six hours after being punctured, so appointments for vaccinations will need to be scheduled carefully.
Administering the vaccine isn’t much different from other inoculations, he said. The only differences are the additional documentation and strictly observing patients for 15 minutes after getting in case they have an allergic reaction, he said.
Patel said people will make appointments using Health Mart’s online platform where they will be screened to make sure they qualify. He said he’ll let people know the pharmacy has the vaccine with signs and social media posts.
If everything goes smoothly and supply increases, he hopes to continue getting 100 more each week.
“It’s exciting because we are getting one step closer to going back to normal,” said Patel.
Contact reporter Jake Thomas at 503-575-1251 or [email protected] or @jakethomas2009.
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