Windsor-Essex pharmacists eagerly prepare to vaccinate local residents

Hundreds of pharmacies across Windsor-Essex, Toronto and Kingston will soon be offering COVID-19 vaccines as part of a provincial pilot program.

330 stores selected for pilot project, Ontario Pharmacists Association says

The Ontario Pharmacists Association has selected 330 participating stores to pilot the project. (Valentina Petrova/The Associated Press)

Pharmacists in Windsor-Essex are getting ready to start doling out vaccines to residents after the region was one of three chosen as part of a provincial pilot project.

Hundreds of pharmacies across Windsor-Essex, Toronto and Kingston will soon be offering the newly approved AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines. 

Since the announcement was made Thursday, the Ontario Pharmacists Association (OPA) has selected 330 participating stores and said the project is expected to begin later this week.

Tim Brady, the owner of Brady's Drug Stores, in Essex, Ont., said he's excited that both of his stores were chosen and he is now preparing for what he anticipates will be a busy couple of weeks.

"We're just trying to prep and [figure out] how we're going to schedule the people, where exactly we're going to set it up and how many can we run an hour," he said.

"I figure there'll be a day or two of working the bugs out, and then once we get to that, it's just how high can we scale it up."

Pharmacist Tim Brady is the owner of Brady's Drug Stores in Essex, Ont., and Beller River, Ont. He says he's excited that both his stores have been selected to offer vaccines. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

Brady aims to vaccinate 10 to 20 people per day in the first few days, before increasing that number to 40.

Pharmacies have a limited amount of time to use up the available vaccines.

"We've got roughly a two-and-a-half week period to ensure that we get all of the initial shipment of the AstraZeneca-Oxford] vaccine into arms because it expires on Apr. 2," said Justin Bates, CEO of OPA.

Francesco Vella, the owner of Medica Pharmacy, said if his store is selected, he will be extending hours to ensure he can assist as many patients as possible. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

Brady said the paperwork and the logistics of scheduling people while the region is in the red zone is the most difficult part of the process.

"Most of the locations are limited on people that can be in the waiting room. So if you're giving injections and because it's a new vaccine, you're definitely waiting the full 15 minutes after injection," he said. "So you inject three people. They now have three people sitting for 15 minutes."

People will be asked to sign up online, which can help speed up the paperwork, he said.

Justin Bates, CEO of the Ontario Pharmacists Association, says the vaccine won't arrive at participating pharmacies until Thursday or Friday. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

Franceco Vella, the owner of Medica Pharmacy, hasn't heard yet whether his store will be chosen, he's optimistic.

He's excited about the pilot project which he believes will help the region "get back to a normal life," as soon as possible.

"Most of the pharmacies that have already done flu shots this year are, in fact, already prepared. So it's a program that's actually pretty easy to roll out," he said.

Phamacists expect busy few weeks

Vella said, if his store is selected, he will be extending hours to ensure he can take in as many patients as he can.

"I can tell you that I'm excited. I'm ready to do my part to really help with the pandemic and help the patients all over Windsor-Essex County," he said.

"But by the same token, I know that there's going to be a lot of long nights just to make sure that we get everyone vaccinated. We may be opening up the pharmacy as early as 6 a.m. to get vaccines and then we'll also extend the hours from 7 p.m. till 10 p.m. to do additional vaccines as well."

'Be patient'

Vella said he's received hundreds of calls from local residents inquiring about the vaccine over the past several and urged everyone to "be patient."

"I wouldn't bombard the pharmacies just yet with phone calls. Give us a chance to get the vaccines and get everything ready to go and rest assured, just like the flu shots, we will get those shots into people's arms and we'll make sure that we do it in a safe and effective manner," he said.

In an email to CBC, Bates said participating pharmacies will be announced this week, possibly on a government website.

"Final details are still being worked out and the vaccine won't arrive to the pharmacies until Thursday or Friday," he wrote.


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