Health Center News, Uncategorized

Expanding the COVID Workforce Through Integration of Pharmacy Teams

Photo credit: Holyoke Health Center Pharmacy vaccinates Holyoke public school staff.

Clinical pharmacists at community health centers were involved in immunization efforts long before the COVID-19 pandemic, making them well-positioned to become leaders in initiatives to comprehensively protect the public from COVID-19. In response to the pandemic and the emergency need to increase the COVID-19 vaccination task force, the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act was amended several times in 2020-21.

One of these amendments made new allowances for pharmacy-led care and for authorized pharmacists, pharmacy interns, and pharmacy technicians to order and administer COVID-19 tests and vaccines. Along with expansions detailed in the PREP Act amendments, state Boards of Pharmacy have made provisions to include pharmacy technicians as vaccinators under the supervision of a registered pharmacist.

Holyoke Health Center, Holyoke, MA, and Mariposa Community Health Center, Nogales, AZ, are two of many health centers that have successfully expanded their COVID-19 vaccination response with pharmacy care teams.

Holyoke Health Center
In late March and April, the health center, under the direction of Chief Pharmacy Officer, Lori Lewicki, partnered with the Holyoke Public School district to vaccinate 600 public school teachers in a one-day mass vaccination clinic event, prior to the reopening of the public schools.

“This has been an exciting way to use the resources of the pharmacy and our staff,” said Dr. Lewicki. “Our programming is built around the integration of pharmacy and medical care, and this effort puts us directly on the front lines in the COVID battle.” Dr. Lewicki has also led health center teams in providing vaccination clinics at the health center for other local agencies including the Holyoke Senior Center and an area housing agency.

Mariposa Community Health Center
In Arizona, the pharmacy team from Mariposa Community Health Center also operates out of a gym with both scheduled and walk-in vaccinations. Led by clinical pharmacists Jeanna Szablicki, Ph.D. and Hee Ju, R.Ph., the COVID-19 vaccine team includes members of every department of the health center and a number of volunteers including pharmacy technicians who draw and deliver immunizations under the supervision of a pharmacist. The team formed in January to help Santa Cruz County implement COVID-19 immunizations.

Today, they regularly immunize 600 people in a day and have immunized more than 47,000 people. They’ve reached 51.8% of the county’s residents and almost 74% of the Latinx population. This feat is attributed to their earned trust in the community and the many staff who are members of that community.

Please Note: This story was adapted from the article “Hit Me With Your Best Shot!” written by Jennie McLaurin.