SCHWENKSVILLE, Pa. (Reuters) – Behind the counter at Skippack Pharmacy in Schwenksville, near Philadelphia, owner Mayank Amin has been working late into the night since his independent pharmacy received state approval to administer COVID-19 vaccines at the end. from January.
There are thousands of emails to sort and phone calls to the field, supplies to organize, appointments to schedule.
Amin, known as Dr. Mak, set up a vaccination clinic on Super Bowl Sunday at the local fire station that attracted more than 1,000 people who showed up for their vaccinations despite the snow that day.
“It was like a party,” Amin, 36, recalled during an interview with Reuters in late February. “It was something you could never have imagined in your life, seeing four strangers carrying someone in a wheelchair to go through the mud and into the building.”
Thanks to the deep ties to their communities and the trust they have been able to establish over the years, some local pharmacists are critical in reaching people who may be reluctant to get vaccinated or may not know about vaccination efforts, he said. Jennifer Kates, director of global health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
“Those local pharmacies are a really important voice of confidence,” Kates said.
The launch of the vaccine, which the administration of former President Donald Trump left to the states to carry out without a federal plan or sufficient funding, has proven to be choppy. Under President Joe Biden, supply has increased, but some distribution and access barriers remain.
Montgomery County, where Schwenksville is located, has one of the highest per capita vaccination rates in the state, according to the state health department website. Pennsylvania is ranked 28th out of 50 states with 18% of residents receiving at least one vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (tmsnrt.rs/2WTOZDR)
On a gray Saturday morning in late February, Amin donned a Superman costume, the holdover from Halloweens’ past that he now sometimes uses for vaccinations, and drove through the icy suburbs to deliver two COVID-19 vaccines to patients. that they couldn’t leave the house.
“What a surprise!” Gail Bertsch, 74, said after Amin and some volunteers, whom she hadn’t been waiting for, knocked on her door. She and her husband James, who suffers from dementia, received injections.
“I can’t believe we can really do this,” he said.
Amin has also vaccinated people by appointment at his pharmacy, including holding a special clinic for pregnant women and another for children with underlying health problems.
Among them was the pharmacist’s nephew, who suffers from neurofibromatosis, a condition that causes tumors to form in the brain, nerves and other parts of the body.
Some 3,000 people have received the first injections of Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech through Skippack Pharmacy since early February, Amin said. Among about 1,000 residents who received second doses over the weekend were Chester and Martha Pish, 97 and 98 years old respectively, who have been married for 78 years.
After securing a large supply of vaccines, the pharmacist said he plans to run several clinics this coming weekend.
The effort has been exhausting for Amin and fraught with hurdles, including organizing vaccine stocks, which sometimes arrive just hours in advance, a side effect of supply chain setbacks that are among the problems that have plagued the launch.
The young pharmacist meets his pregnant wife only on weekends as a health precaution and spends the week at his parents’ home in Lansdale. The couple will receive their first child in May.
“I want to be there when my son is born, and I want to make sure all my people are vaccinated by then,” he told Reuters. “If I can, that would be my dream.”
Pandemic hardships and now the urge to shoot into people’s arms have united the Montgomery County community behind the young pharmacist.
On a recent Friday, five volunteers gathered in the back of the store. They filled out spreadsheets with patient contact information and checked the inventory of vaccination supplies.
Amin has only one other full-time employee, Jacquelyn Ziegler, and two pharmacy student interns, Erica Mabry and Isabelle Lawler. But you can count on dozens of volunteers, including family members, to answer the phone and help less tech-savvy patients navigate the online system to book an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine.
“It’s just amazing how everyone has leaked into this space,” said event planner Courtney Marengo, one of Amin’s volunteers.
Amin said he didn’t set out to have a pharmacy. But it moved to fill a void left when Skippack, a 50-year-old local institution, was bought by national giant CVS in 2018. The chain acquired the assets of Skippack Pharmacy but not the physical space. Amin reopened it before the pandemic in hopes of keeping the resource in the community.
“I feel like sometimes things fall into your lap at certain times in your life,” he said. “You may not have planned it, but things happen for the right reason.”
Reporting by Maria Caspani and Hannah Beier in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania; written by Maria Caspani; editing by Donna Bryson and Lisa Shumaker