COVID-19: Rural Saskatchewan pharmacies stressed, strained amid vaccine administration

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan rural pharmacies stretched thin amid vaccine rollout' Saskatchewan rural pharmacies stretched thin amid vaccine rollout
Between booking COVID-19 vaccine appointments and managing day-to-day duties, some small town pharmacists in Saskatchewan are feeling the strain. – May 21, 2021

Have you ever seen a meme of someone drowning?

For Janelle Shewchuk, a pharmacist at Midway Pharmacy in Davidson, that depiction reflects her current stress level dealing with COVID-19 vaccine administration.

“It’s absolutely horrible,” Shewchuk told Global News over the phone.

Read more: Canada ‘on track’ to shorten 16-week interval between COVID-19 vaccine doses, Njoo says

Midway Pharmacy fielded 300 calls on Monday, according to Shewchuk, as people became eligible for a second dose.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 530 people on the pharmacy’s waitlist, even though its next vaccine shipment isn’t expected until next week.

Midway Pharmacy in Davidson is expected to receive 100 doses of Moderna vaccine next week. Google Maps

Shewchuk works with one other pharmacist, Julie Nykiforuk.

Story continues below advertisement

Nykiforuk said they’ve had to train other staff to field calls and book appointments in order to get any work done in a day.

“We laugh a lot,” Nykiforuk said. “If we didn’t laugh, we’d cry.”

Due to long wait lines at drive-thru clinics and low availability for Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) appointments, Davidson has become a vaccine hub for the area and beyond, inoculating patients from as far away as Prince Albert and Assiniboia.

“It’s like a frenzy,” Nykiforuk said.

“People really are just sick of COVID and really want to get the vaccine. They want to get it as soon as possible any way they can.”

Pharmacies across the province volunteered for the pilot program that would help administer COVID vaccines. Nykiforuk said, as healthcare professionals, they wanted to do their part in helping the public get back to normal.

Read more: Regina pharmacies book up in anticipation of Wednesday’s COVID-19 vaccine shipment

But the pharmacists aren’t just administering vaccines, they are also dealing with everything that comes along with that.

“We have to check every patient to see if they’ve had a first dose. And now that the second doses are rolling out, we need to verify what vaccine they had and what date they had it, just to make sure we’re falling within the eligibility criteria,” Nykiforuk said.

Story continues below advertisement

The verification often comes in the form of extra paperwork that the pharmacists fill out after hours at home.

In a statement to Global News, the Pharmacy Association of Saskatchewan said:

“As vaccine volumes increase and pharmacy transitions vaccine delivery dates, we should be able to get to a smoother process for all pharmacies. However, demand is high and we’re trying to navigate this with supply coming to pharmacies while ensuring we keep to the age and priority rules.”

Rural and Remote Health Minister Everett Hindley said it is a good sign that vaccine demand remains high, but he is aware of the stress it puts on pharmacists in the province.

SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said there is a vaccine “supply issue not a delivery issue,” which is adding to the strain.

According to Livingstone, the SHA is looking at different ways to support pharmacies through the booking system process. Patients can now access pharmacies’ online and telephone booking systems on the SHA website.

Nykiforuk said increasing SHA clinics and appointments in Davidson would help alleviate strain on the pharmacy.

Read more: What we know so far about COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Sask. pharmacies

Story continues below advertisement

However, the SHA plans to reduce its available bookings across the province next month in order to focus on vaccinations in schools.

“We are maintaining our drive-thrus and walk-ins and looking at how we can make more booked appointments available on a regular basis,” Livingstone said.

Nykiforuk said she is hopeful the entire process will get smoother as kinks continue to be ironed out.

And as challenging as the entire process has been, she said it’s been equally as rewarding.

“We’ve had people almost in tears because they’ve been so glad they can get their vaccine,” she said.

“That’s been fun.”

Click to play video: 'SHA to begin administrating COVID-19 vaccines in elementary, high schools in June' SHA to begin administrating COVID-19 vaccines in elementary, high schools in June
SHA to begin administrating COVID-19 vaccines in elementary, high schools in June – May 19, 2021

Sponsored content