P.E.I. pharmacists in talks with Chief Public Health Office to give COVID-19 shots

The executive director of the P.E.I. Pharmacists Association says there have been talks with public health officials around having pharmacists distribute and administer COVID-19 vaccines.

Would mean 'potentially 170 pharmacists able to join the fight in getting people vaccinated'

The first Moderna vaccine doses were administered on P.E.I. Friday morning. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

The executive director of the P.E.I. Pharmacists Association says there have been talks with public health officials around having pharmacists distribute and administer vaccines.

P.E.I. health officials have been administering Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses for several weeks and the first Moderna doses went to residents and staff at long-term care homes Friday morning.

Currently, all of P.E.I.'s COVID-19 vaccines are going to that top-priority group and are being administered by public health nursing staff.

"Once those people are done with this vaccine, the plan, as we move out to generalized immunization through the next stage of [the] immunization process, pharmacists would be involved in making sure that we get as many people vaccinated as possible," said association executive director Erin MacKenzie.

MacKenzie said that would make vaccines more accessible and convenient, as well as contributing to "a swifter delivery based on the fact that we would have, you know, potentially 170 pharmacists able to join the fight in getting people vaccinated."

Although every new drug on the market is different, MacKenzie said pharmacists have experience familiarizing themselves with new ones — and as distributors of the annual flu shot, P.E.I. pharmacists are not strangers to vaccine delivery. 

MacKenzie said last year, pharmacists on P.E.I. gave about 70 per cent of all flu shots that were administered.

"Pharmacists are there and patients do come to us for a whole host of vaccine-related questions and other health-related questions as well," she said.

"So we've been very much instrumental in educating patients on the COVID-19 situation, and especially with this vaccine."

Pharmacists may play role in 2nd quarter

P.E.I. is  running a vaccination campaign based on first targeting the most vulnerable Islanders, those providing their direct care, and essential service workers. The planned rollout has been broken down into three-month quarters.

'Dr. Morrison's updates to the public have been very, very helpful and very thorough. I think they have been very transparent with, you know, what the expectation is as far as receipt of vaccine timelines,' says P.E.I. Pharmacists Association executive director Erin MacKenzie. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

The first quarter includes residents and staff in long-term and community-care facilities, those in other kinds of communal living settings, health-care workers, some rotational workers, adults in Indigenous communities and those over the age of 80.

The priority is to vaccinate these individuals by the end of March.

Then, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison has said, the focus will shift in the second quarter to those over the age of 70, essential workers like emergency responders or grocery store clerks, and additional health-care professionals not included in the first quarter.

MacKenzie said her understanding is that pharmacists may be used to distribute the vaccines to these groups in the second quarter, along with being on the list to be vaccinated themselves.

"Certainly we are hands on. We're not able to keep a… two-metre distance," she said.

"People that are coming to us often are unwell, so we certainly are in the front lines of health care and considered, you know, an important resource to make sure that we are healthy and available in the community."

P.E.I. is aiming to have 80 per cent of the adult population vaccinated by the end of the summer, Morrison has said.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Angela Walker


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