Nurses, pharmacists ready to administer COVID-19 vaccine when needed
P.E.I. waiting for more vaccine doses before it ramps up shot delivery plans
Nurses and pharmacists in P.E.I. are confident they can quickly deliver the COVID-19 vaccines when they are called upon.
Barbara Brookins, president of the P.E.I. Nurses' Union, says nurses are flexible and resilient, and already provide vaccinations every year during flu season.
"We do have nurses that work outside their regular hours. They work in the evenings. They work on the weekends. And we do have other nurses that work within various facilities that work along with employee health nurses to vaccinate employees already. So that system's already in place."
To date, it's been public health nurses administering the vaccine at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and long-term care homes in the province.
But as the Island's supply increases into the spring, more nurses will likely be called upon to help administer shots.
Plan to train more nurses
According to Health PEI, about 30 nurses have the proper training to administer vaccines right now, and there is a plan to train more if necessary.
"While it is true that Health PEI is always recruiting for nursing positions and we have a need for more nurses in our system, we do not anticipate any issues in providing the COVID vaccine due to staffing," said an email statement from P.E.I. Chief of Nursing Marion Dowling.
Brookins said four or five nurses at a clinic could vaccinate a couple of hundred people in a day.
"So if you have several of those same clinics operating across the Island, you'd have to do the math on that one. But we could certainly roll it out a lot quicker."
At the moment, she said, the staffing number is based on the supply of doses.
The federal government announced Tuesday it has secured another 20 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine.
In total, Ottawa has now secured 80 million doses from Pfizer and Moderna.
P.E.I. Premier Dennis King has said that he's confident the Island will see a big increase to its supply this spring, and that this province will have the capacity to administer those shots quickly.
The Chief Public Health Office is also in talks with pharmacists about having them give COVID-19 vaccines as well.
Brookins said it's in the best interests of people working in health care to get as many Islanders vaccinated as quickly as possible.
When we're caring for patients, if we can be assured patients coming in are not going to be COVID-positive, it takes away a huge workload for us.— Barbara Brookins
"It's a short-term pain, long-term gain type of thing, because I think every nurse would realize that the faster we get people immunized and protected, our workload is going to be impacted dramatically at the front line. When we're caring for patients, if we can be assured patients coming in are not going to be COVID-positive, it takes away a huge workload for us."
Pharmacists on P.E.I. are also ready and willing to help get more vaccines into the arms of more Islanders.
Erin MacKenzie, executive director of the P.E.I. Pharmacists Association, said members are already trained to administer other vaccines, so when more COVID-19 vaccine doses reach the Island, pharmacists will play an important role in the process.
"Once we get larger supply in, that can be spread out across the province a little bit more effectively and efficiently, we can bring the product right to where the people are who need it — and that's kind of the, I guess, the unique ability pharmacists have, being that we are located in every community across the province."
MacKenzie said preliminary discussions have started with public health officials as the logistics of how the vaccine will be delivered and administered in pharmacies are worked out.
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With files from Steve Bruce and CBC News: Compass