Andrew Hanna Shares How Canadian Pharmacies Will Help With the Stage 2 of the COVID-19 Vaccine Effort
The COVID pandemic has been uniquely devastating for the world as we know it. As of February 2021, over 21,000 people in Canada have lost their lives due to the pandemic and its complications. While the rapid development of the vaccine bodes well for the end of the pandemic, the fact remains that vaccine distribution up to this point has been slower than projected.
Andrew Hanna, a well-known compounding pharmacist and the owner of Cotton Mill Pharmacy, describes Canada’s upcoming shift to Stage 2 in the vaccine effort and explains how community pharmacies will be an important distributor of the COVID vaccine.
Stages of Vaccine Distribution in Canada
As many other countries have done, Canada has prioritized certain segments of the population to receive vaccines in a defined order. Stage 1, beginning in December 2020, includes residents and staff of long-term care homes and other congregate living centers. Adults 70 years of age and over are also included in Stage 1, though the vaccinations are prioritized for those 80 and older. As the supply becomes available, the threshold for vaccination will go down by 5 years.
Healthcare workers are part of Stage 1. This includes all workers in healthcare settings and personal support workers who have direct contact with patients.
Indigenous communities are also prioritized since they have taken a disproportionate share of the deaths and illnesses from COVID-19.
Up to 8.5 million residents of Ontario will be vaccinated during Stage 2 of the vaccine rollout. As additional vaccines become available, there will be a sufficient supply to vaccinate every person in Stage 1. Next, the vaccine will be offered to people in the following categories. First, healthcare workers whose jobs were not covered in Stage 1 will be included. Residents and staff of other congregate settings will be vaccinated next. This includes migrant workers in common quarters, residents of homeless shelters, and residents of correctional facilities. Finally, essential workers will also be vaccinated.
Stage 2 has an expected completion date of July 31, 2021. The general population may be able to start receiving their vaccines as early as August 2021. The rollout of the vaccine may be delayed due to undersupply or manufacturing difficulties, but it is anticipated that every Canadian who wants one will be able to get it sometime in 2021. Additional vaccines like the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which only requires one dose, are in the pipeline, and these may ease the pressure on vaccination officials by providing more supply.
Beyond Stage 2, the COVID vaccine will be available for any Canadian who wishes to receive it. Children’s doses will be delayed until the vaccine manufacturers have completed relevant clinical trials and submitted their data to Health Canada. At that time, the government will determine whether the vaccine is safe for children.
How Pharmacists Will Be the Keys to Vaccine Distribution
Canadian community pharmacists number in the tens of thousands. These professionals are easily accessible to most of the Canadian population, with 90 percent of the Canadian population living within a 5-kilometre driving distance of a local pharmacy. For this reason, pharmacists are considered to be one of the keys to a successful vaccine rollout in the country.
89 percent of pharmacists in Canada already give vaccines. They already have the refrigeration and freezer facilities to handle the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. They have instituted solid procedures and policies for giving vaccines in their facilities, helped by their extensive experience with the annual flu vaccine.
Many Canadians prefer to visit a local pharmacist for their vaccinations rather than their primary healthcare provider. The reason for this preference is that it is much easier to get appointments for vaccinations at pharmacies, and sometimes appointments are not necessary. Pharmacies are also more convenient than doctors’ offices, which may be located at some distance from the patient’s home.
Patients Trust Their Local Pharmacies
Patients trust their community pharmacists to provide them with accurate information about their health. They are already well-versed in managing a patient’s medications, contacting their physician to make sure that drug interactions and other side effects are minimized. People in Canada are accustomed to visiting or calling their pharmacist if they have a question about a minor ailment or injury or need a vaccine.
Many pharmacies like Cotton Mill Pharmacy have been able to institute virtual visiting capabilities since the beginning of the pandemic. Cotton Mill Pharmacy has a program known as the Patient First Virtual Care Program.
This program enables homebound seniors and others who prefer not to visit the pharmacy in person to consult directly with their pharmacist. The pharmacist can answer questions about medications, drug interactions, minor ailments, and vaccines, including the vaccine for COVID-19.
Hope for a Vaccinated Population
When enough patients have been vaccinated, the country should reach herd immunity. This means that the coronavirus pandemic will be over. The disease is expected to become endemic, meaning that it will continue in the population on a limited basis. This means that people will probably need to continue getting COVID vaccine boosters annually for the foreseeable future.
Andrew Hanna believes that the Canadian community pharmacist can play a large role in distributing the COVID vaccine. Using their unique locations throughout the country and their well of expertise, Canadian pharmacists will be instrumental in reducing the spread of the deadly coronavirus.