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Trusted pharmacies fill crucial gap for some in vaccine rollout

Published: Feb. 18, 2021 at 6:22 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 19, 2021 at 5:10 AM EST
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ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont continues to make progress with its COVID-19 vaccination efforts, as of Thursday having inoculated 14.5% of the state’s adult population with at least one dose of the vaccine. Now, exactly three weeks after the first of the 75-plus population lined up for a shot, it’s time for a return trip for the second dose, and some prefer their local pharmacy.

Officials at the Kinney Drugs in Essex Junction say it’s the busiest it’s been there since the start of the pandemic, with folks filing in all day to receive their second shot.

“We know because of our age we’re the high-risk group and we’re not anxious to be a statistic,” said 77-year-old Thomas Lasher, who along with his 83-year-old wife, Marcelle, were among the nearly 50 people getting a second shot on this day. The Colchester couple felt it was crucial they get their vaccinations as soon as possible.

But when eligible Vermonters anxious for their first dose flooded the health department’s system three weeks ago, the couple struggled to sign up. So, they turned to their local pharmacist and snagged an appointment a few short days after registration opened. “It just turned out it was very good. We’re very happy with it,” Marcelle said.

Reporter Christina Guessferd: Do you like the fact that you know your pharmacist, that you know the person putting a shot in your arm?

Marcelle Lasher: Oh yes. She’s so nice, very nice. And it’s easy. It’s very easy. People shouldn’t worry about it.

Thomas Lasher: I didn’t feel it.

Marcelle Lasher: Me either. So I can’t complain.

The Lashers say getting immunized by their pharmacist makes for a more personalized process. Rather than a stranger sticking their arm, it feels more like a friend helping them stay healthy. Kinney pharmacist Hayley Hooks is that friend.

Reporter Christina Guessferd: What is it like knowing you are a part of their journey towards full immunization?

Hayley Hooks: Super fulfilling. I couldn’t be more honored to be in the front line doing this for my patients.

Hooks says she finds many patients register to receive a vaccine at their local pharmacy over a state-run clinic because they’ve established a relationship with the provider. “Especially because we’ve been through so much and they’re coming to a place that I feel that they trust and they have a connection with and they feel comfortable at,” she said.

Hooks says though it can get a bit hectic behind the counter, pharmacies already have the organization and pharmacists on hand to make the process efficient. “It’s just who we are in general as pharmacists, to be able to do all of this, and do it at a level that needs to be done correctly,” she said.

It’s that attention to detail that patients like Lashers applaud. “We’d like to see our grandkids more close up, and we’re hoping this will help us get there,” he said.

Hooks says that sometimes the pharmacy will have extra doses available at the end of the day. When that happens they have a waitlist of people in the 75-plus age group already registered and will call them. Once they exhausted that list, they turn to registered Vermonters in the 70-plus group.

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