Managing the Challenges Pharmacies May Face When Receiving and Administering COVID-19 Vaccines

Pharmacy Times® interviewed John Beckner, the senior director of strategic initiatives at the National Community Pharmacists Association, on some of the challenges community pharmacies may need to manage when receiving and administering COVID-19 vaccines.

Pharmacy Times® interviewed John Beckner, the senior director of strategic initiatives at the National Community Pharmacists Association, on some of the challenges community pharmacies may face when receiving and administering coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines.

Alana Hippensteele: What are some of the challenges that pharmacies may be facing when managing receiving these vaccines and administering them to the public?

John Beckner: Well, I mean the first thing is the ultra-cold storage, if indeed the community pharmacy has that capability. But just general storage requirements overall. Certainly, they're going to need to be able to accommodate a fairly large number of doses for the COVID-19 vaccine, so certainly storage is one thing they need to keep in mind.

I mentioned the unprecedented demand for the vaccine, so they really need to be thinking about an operational plan. I mentioned staffing, maybe trying to go to an appointment-based model to minimize the number of people in the pharmacy at one time, certainly the appropriate amount of personal protective equipment is going to be important, and then really just thinking about how they're going to manage the second dose requirements. I mean if this vaccine is in all likelihood—with the possible exception of one manufacturer—going to require 2 doses, just making sure the patient is going to be able to come back in and they're going to be able to schedule time for that second dose.

The other thing that they really need to be thinking about is initially the vaccine is going to be distributed or administered on a priority basis, and you know understanding what that means in terms of if someone has a chronic disease or over the age of 65. Also, there may be some issues with, I guess for lack of a better word, people trying to cut in line, and how they respond to that and how they deal with that situation I think is going to be important.

Alana Hippensteele: Right. Are there any additional challenges to consider in terms of patients waiting at pharmacies for vaccinations?

John Beckner: Sure, one important consideration with this vaccine actually isn’t a consideration with most vaccines, as there is a designated or preferred waiting period after the vaccine is administered. In this case, patients are being asked to wait for 15 minutes to make sure there are no serious reactions to the vaccine. Actually, the wait time is 30 minutes if they had a previous anaphylactic type reaction, so when you couple that requirement with the folks that may be waiting to be vaccinated, that is going to impose some logistical workflow operational type challenges for the pharmacy, depending upon the pharmacy layout. The pharmacy may be big enough to accommodate folks waiting around for 15 minutes, but there also may be some very small pharmacies that will have trouble accommodating that wait period.

Alana Hippensteele: Right, absolutely.