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Independent pharmacies working to tackle COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy

Independent pharmacies have played a key role in COVID-19 vaccine rollout, according to the executive director for the Ohio Pharmacist Association.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Pharmacists everywhere are continuing to work hard to get shots into people’s arms. 

Ernest Boyd, the executive director for the Ohio Pharmacist Association, says independent pharmacies have played a particular role in vaccinating people, and have also helped with vaccine hesitancy. 

“Independent pharmacies have more staff than our chain pharmacies per unit," explained Boyd. "What has always been true is that the independent pharmacies overstaff, they have more staff to talk to people. Our chains do a great job, our chain pharmacists do a particular great job." 

 According to Boyd, independent pharmacists may have a bit more time during the day to talk with patients about the vaccine. More time to get to know their patients, their medications, and their medical history.

Independent pharmacies also tend to have more flexibility, Boyd explained. For instance, they can easily partner with those in the community, going right to them.

“If a business says, 'Hey I want three shifts to get immunization,' because they can’t get time off, the independents are known to go to those businesses," said Boyd. "My wife used to own one and she and my son used to go in and do three shifts of Flu shots, for instance. That can be done with this vaccine." 

Dr. Emlah Tubuo, pharmacist and owner of Powell Pharmacy, is constantly reaching out to local businesses, homeless shelters, and churches to set up community clinics.

Tubuo says flexibility, getting to know patients and their history, and going out into the community are important factors in reducing some of the vaccine hesitancy.

“I can say the name of almost everybody who walks into this door and their family members, I know my patients and my patients know me and that’s how I want it to be and that’s why they trust my recommendations,” Tubuo said.

The biggest challenge she’s now facing as an independent pharmacist and owner is the vaccine hesitancy. Tubuo says she has patients come in on the fence and ask her several questions.

Right now she’s focusing on education, providing her patients with research and statistics to help them make a comfortable and informed decision.

She and her pharmacy staff are launching an education campaign called “Sleeves up for Summer.” The goal is to educate as many people, young kids, as she can on the importance of the vaccine and what it does to the body.

Another independent pharmacy working hard throughout the pandemic is Crosby’s Drugs.

According to the pharmacy's owner, since the start of the rollout, they’ve had the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Before the pause, they had 4,000 people on waiting, made a makeshift drive-thru and it was going great.

The owner said they “respect” the pause and, after the vaccine came back on the shelves, they were a little skeptical. The pharmacy wasn’t sure if they would see as many people coming in, but the owner says their numbers are picking back up.

During a day, Crosby’s Drugs vaccinates at least 15 to 20 people.

The owner of O’Reilly Family Pharmacy, Aimee O’Reilly, RPh, PharmD, told 10TV they have plenty of vaccines available.  

“O'Reilly Family Pharmacy is now accepting walk-in appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine. All the available COVID-19 vaccines have been proven safe and effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. Getting vaccinated can help protect you from COVID-19,” O’Reilly said.

Tremont Pharmacy said they’re also seeing the number of people coming in dwindle. The pharmacy encourages anyone who wants a vaccine to stop in during their regular business hours, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

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