SHOREWOOD, Wis. — Wisconsin pharmacies have prepared for a large-scale effort to get COVID-19 vaccines to people who want them.
The Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin says the fact pharmacies are ingrained in communities will play a role in making these vaccines accessible.
"We're really proud that we get to do this for our communities," said Dr. Kyle Beyer, owner and pharmacy manager at North Shore Pharmacy in Shorewood.
North Shore Pharmacy is one of the pharmacies approved to administer COVID-19 vaccines in Wisconsin.
"At this point, we just wait on DHS (Department of Health Services) to give us guidance on which phase we’ll provide vaccine in and when those shipments will arrive," said Dr. Beyer.
In the meantime, Dr. Beyer said what they can control is the patient experience. They plan to administer vaccines by appointment to manage demand.
"That’ll also help us staff appropriately so we have dedicated staff just providing the vaccines so there aren’t too long of a wait. Outside of that, it’s going to feel probably a lot like walking into your neighborhood pharmacy for a flu shot," said Dr. Beyer.
While some vaccines like Pfizer's will require ultra-cold storage, pharmacists are expected to play a bigger role in the later phases with vaccines that have less restrictive storage needs.
"I really think that pharmacists are going to be amazing heroes in this fight to get us out of the pandemic," said Sarah Sorum, Executive Vice President/CEO at the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin.
Sorum added staffing will be another challenge pharmacies face as healthcare staffing continues to be strained in every setting.
Nationwide CVS is urgently hiring thousands of pharmacists, nurses, and pharmacy technicians to help administer COVID-19 vaccines.
"We have advocated for an expanded role for pharmacy technicians, the support personnel and pharmacies, to play a role in helping with the actual administration of the vaccine. We’ve also advocated for the role of student pharmacists in their first and second years of pharmacy school," said Sorum.
Alongside a historic rollout of new vaccines, education will be just as important.
"I think it’s really critical is to have important conversations around vaccine confidence. This is technology that has been around a long time but we’re just now seeing it implemented in a large-scale vaccine," said Sorum.
COVID-19 vaccines for the general public are expected to roll out after the first quarter of 2021. Healthcare professionals stressed in the meantime people should get their flu shot, continue to wear face masks, and physically distance.