Expert Says Biden Administration Must Fully Lean Into Existing Infrastructure for COVID-19 Vaccinations
Pharmacy Times® interviewed Kurt Proctor, PhD, RPh, senior vice president of strategic initiatives at the National Community Pharmacy Association, on how the Biden administration’s launch of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program may affect the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination rollout.
During this discussion, Proctor discusses his outlook on the future of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout under the Biden administration and the value of the pharmacist in the fight against COVID-19 in 2021.
Alana Hippensteele: What is your outlook on the future of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout under the Biden administration, and is there anything you plan to keep your eye on?
Kurt Proctor: Well again, right now I think my biggest concern as we sit here on this date is [that] I don't think they're fully leaning into this federal program yet. I mean, they've given it a little bit, [but] I don't think they're leaning into pharmacies, I don't think they're leaning into the existing infrastructure. From my taste, I'm hearing too much talk about FEMA and events at football stadiums—that's not healthcare, that's not the way this is, [and] that's not what is going to engender confidence in the minds of patients.
So, I'm hoping that the administration will get back to the existing infrastructure, which is where patients go for things like their flu vaccine. That's how they like to get that. I understand folks wanting to control and everything, but we've got a pretty doggone good infrastructure of community pharmacies and the distribution system and all that that does this every day of the year and has been doing it every day of the year since before I was born, which was a long time ago, and they have the capacity to do that. It's not like the infrastructure that's in place has been stretched so thin that we have to call in the military to help, we're not in that situation at all. And we’re not even close to being in that situation. By the time we get enough vaccine going there will be enough people that have gotten it already, and I think we'll be able to keep up with the demand right alongside the quantity of the supply. So, we got to get folks leaning into this existing infrastructure that is at this point woefully underutilized.
Alana Hippensteele: Great. What is the value of a pharmacist in the fight against COVID-19 in 2021 and beyond?
Kurt Proctor: Yeah, it's education, it's trust. They care for these patients, they know them. Like I mentioned earlier, we haven't talked a lot about it, but the socially vulnerable populations we have, there's a lot of independent owners that are ethnic themselves. They have a population they serve, whether it be a Somalian owner serving a Somalian population or a Korean owner serving a Korean population, or across the board, all different ethnicities—there are owners serving communities like that where they have got the trust of those patients and those patients rely on them as their local health care provider to give them good advice about it.
So, I mean, I think that's a really important point, and the independent pharmacies who are delivering there, they know the population, they know who's vulnerable, they're going out of their way. If they have to go to somebody's home to do it, they're doing that. You can't give an Uber driver the vaccine to take to somebody's house and give it to them, but the pharmacies who are delivering themselves can do that and can reach out and contact those patients. They know them, they may not be patients that are real internet savvy or on the internet at all, and those pharmacies still know those patients, and they're going to be reaching out to them and making sure that that get the vaccine when it's their turn, and people in that condition it's probably their turn.