Nova Scotia

Small Cape Breton pharmacy punching above its weight in vaccine rollout

Despite its small staff and size, Stone's Pharmasave in Baddeck, N.S., has given out 5,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

A makeshift vaccination clinic was set up inside a hardware store

Graham MacKenzie is owner and pharmacist at Stone's Pharmasave in Baddeck, N.S. (Erin Pottie/CBC)

A Cape Breton pharmacy located in a tiny village home to about 800 people has become a vaccination hub for people across the province.

Stone's Pharmasave in Baddeck, N.S., has administered 5,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, with at least 3,200 of those being first doses.

Graham MacKenzie, the store owner and pharmacist, said what's driving the pharmacy's high numbers are people's eagerness to get vaccinated and their willingness to travel.

"It was almost like a lottery," said MacKenzie. "They would drive from Halifax. They would land at the store, get their shot, turn around and go back. We had people from Antigonish, Arichat — it was everywhere.

"And we had people from Baddeck who would leave and drive up to Antigonish, so it was pretty all over the place."

MacKenzie said the store continues to see a high demand from people across Cape Breton. 

Graham MacKenzie stands inside a hardware store next to a shower and bath display. This upper portion of his pharmacy building is being used as a space for COVID-19 vaccinations. (Erin Pottie/CBC)

"It's pretty amazing that a little village like this would attract that amount," he said. "For flu shot season, if we did 400 flu shots, that's a lot. But with COVID-19, everybody wanted the shot."

Across the province, pharmacies have now administered 583,615 doses of vaccine while community clinics have administered 468,229 doses, according to recent numbers from the Health Department.

MacKenzie said in his experience, people are both grateful and relieved to be getting a vaccine.

"One thing that was a nice surprise was that people would be dropping off stuff for us, like coffee," he said.

"People would bring pans of squares ... and I don't know if this is normal in other parts of the country, but it was really nice that people were doing that for us."

Vaccines and hardware

In order to accommodate an average of 100 people per day, the pharmacy in Victoria County had to make adjustments. 

An upstairs hardware store became its vaccination clinic, with people getting their needles next to a row of tub and shower displays.

"There's tubs and sinks and stuff like that, but were sitting in an area that was curtained off," said MacKenzie with a laugh.

"As long as you have your emergency kits and you're looking after your vaccine the way you're supposed to, you can kind of have a clinic anywhere."

Pharmacy staff also made trips to patient homes, while a few others received the vaccine inside their cars.

John Snow is an owner and pharmacist at Shoppers Drug Mart on Prince Street in Sydney, N.S. (Erin Pottie/CBC)

MacKenzie said he expects the number of people lining up for doses in Baddeck to remain steady over the next few months.

Pharmacies in Sydney, N.S., are also seeing no slowdown in the number of bookings.

John Snow, an owner and pharmacist at Shoppers Drug Mart on Prince Street, said demand for doses remains high. Each clinic held at the pharmacy has been full.

"Sometimes that creates challenges with the booking process and getting the appointment that you like, and when you like. But it's a good problem to have," said Snow.

"It's lots of long hours and long days, but it's very much worth it."

Snow said at his store, people have also shown a willingness to travel in order to be vaccinated.

"We see people coming from all over the island. We get people locally. We get people from Glace Bay, Port Hawkesbury, Chéticamp," he said, adding that he doesn't expect that trend to change anytime soon.