The world rejoiced when COVID-19 vaccines—most notably Moderna and Pfizer’s, but with Johnson & Johnson’s poised for approval—that were 90%+ effective had finally passed clinical trials.
As news of their development was announced, excitement was reigned in slightly when minds turned to vaccine transportation, storage and eligibility tiers, in what will be a long and arduous task.
When we think of healthcare frontline workers and heroes, we think of doctors, nurses and elder care workers, but one group has been somewhat unfairly neglected—pharmacists.
Now is there moment to be recognized for the invaluable role they will play in vaccinating citizens against COVID-19.
amNewYork Metro spoke to Tom D’Angelo, President of the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York (PSSNY), about his first-hand experience so far in this fledgling phase of vaccinations; currently attending to vaccinating tier 1, those 65 years and older, and tiers 1(a) and 1(b), that include all health care providers, teachers and grocery store workers, amongst others.
D’Angelo owns a private pharmacy, Americare Pharmaceutical Services in Garden City, South New York, and has been active in overseeing the vaccine rollout since last fall.
D’Angelo knew that on Day 1 of receiving the vaccine—he stocks the Moderna—at his pharmacy, a great deal of interest would be generated. What he didn’t expect was 100,000 phone calls before 11 a.m. from citizens eager to get their shot. Forget breaking the internet, this influx left D’Angelo’s phone system completely jammed.
Governor Andrew Cuomo raised concerns on Jan 19 that NYC’s vaccine supply will run out by Jan 22, understandably causing waves of mass panic for city residents, especially those at thigh-risk. Of these shortages D’Angelo stated, “It looks like the supply is not coming across as quickly as we wanted it to, but we are getting it.”
When questioned over why the U.S.’ vaccine stockpile was seemingly being haphazardly delivered, he had no concrete answer, but speculated it could be a manufacturing hold up or a logistical issue.
D’Angelo is being careful not to over-order for the sake of the city’s residents at large. He received an initial batch of 600 doses that have now run out, but is expecting 600 more in a matter of days.
A major, foreseeable problem would be the hypothetical: what if these pharmacies experience a shortage in the 28 day period after which the second shot is to be administered? Given our limited knowledge, D’Angelo could only speculate that patients would perhaps not have the full 95% coverage but slightly less, until they were able to receive that crucial second shot.
D’Angelo’s pharmacy operates on a first come, first served basis, and an appropriate ID proving eligibility is required. As far as side effects go, he has had heard nothing more than injection site tenderness, fatigue and headache, but nothing that would require more than an over-the-counter pain alleviator.
D’Angelo does not share in and refuses to fan the flames of vaccine shortage panic. This is a new process, and manufacturers and distribution are working together to optimize deliveries, “It’s like everything else, you want it to be faster than it is. We have to be patient,” stated D’Angelo.
Go to covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov for COVID-19 vaccine information.