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COVID-19: Meet a N.B. pharmacist and how he’s taking on vaccine hesitancy

Click to play video: 'Pharmacist helping hesitant New Brunswickers with COVID vaccine' Pharmacist helping hesitant New Brunswickers with COVID vaccine
Watch: During the pandemic, pharmacists have stepped up to deliver COVID-19 vaccines across the country. Some have taken that work a step further, answering patient questions and helping people who are vaccine hesitant to roll up their sleeves. Nathalie sturgeon has the story – Jan 18, 2022

Greg MacFarlane is doing more than filling prescriptions these days.

A pharmacist in New Brunswick, he has taken charge, talking to vaccine-hesitant patients and trying to show them it’s safe and the best defence against COVID-19.

MacFarlane said while he hasn’t kept exact track of the number of patients he has spoken with, it’s in the thousands.

Read more: N.B. reports 3 COVID-19 deaths, pleading for ‘volunteers’ to help with response efforts

“Most days we have those scenarios presented to us, so one day isn’t much different than the rest. We’re all working to get us across the line with the vaccine,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

Pharmacists are in a unique position to help people understand the science behind the vaccine, and how it may benefit them in the long run, because of their connection to the patients, he said.

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In many cases, MacFarlane said he tries to draw a connection for people who may have an elderly loved one, someone they live with who has an underlying condition, or a loved one in long-term care. He said it’s about understanding how getting the vaccine helps other people.

“So, again, pharmacists are in a good position to take the opportunity when the chance arises,” he said.

MacFarlane also uses social media to engage with people who have questions.

“Messaging with (an) unvaccinated patient/customer this afternoon doing my best to convince them it’s safe. One vaccination at a time #StrongerTogether #GetVaccinatedNow #GetBoostedNow,” he wrote in one tweet.

He often drops into replies, too.

“Agree. That’s what I’ve been telling my #Moderna skeptic patients. Blends may provide wider immune response,” replying to one person about getting Moderna as their booster.

In New Brunswick, booster doses became available to certain groups in mid to late December and widely available to the public on Jan. 7.

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Booster doses, according to Public Health in New Brunswick, are the best defence against the new highly transmissible Omicron variant.

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“It has never been more important than now for those eligible to get fully vaccinated, including a booster dose,” said New Brunswick’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell in a media release on Monday.  “As the Omicron variant continues to dominate our province, it is vital for New Brunswickers to have as much protection as possible to help prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death.”

According to Public Health, as of Jan. 18, 32.7 per cent of New Brunswickers have received a booster dose.

“Since Jan. 10, more than 37,600 appointments have been booked with the regional health authorities for booster doses of an mRNA vaccine, according to a release by Public Health. The health authorities have more than 25,700 appointments available between now and Jan. 31. In addition, pharmacies have received nearly 44,000 doses for their COVID-19 clinics.”

As of Jan. 18, 91.3 per cent of New Brunswickers have their first dose and 83.4 have their second dose.

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