Front Runners: Trig’s pharmacies among first to administer COVID vaccine
By Kris Leonhardt
STEVENS POINT – Trig’s pharmacies will be among the first to administer the COVID-19 vaccine.
Pfizer and Moderna recently announced that candidate vaccines were shown to be 90 percent effective. If approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the upcoming weeks, Trig’s is expecting millions of doses to be released countrywide before the end of the year. Some of those will be delivered to Trig’s pharmacy to administer to Phase IA patients.
“We were approached to do this… We do quite a bit of vaccination out of our pharmacies, both within the pharmacy and we go outside and do local area clinics and things like that in our market areas,” said Jeff Suppon, Trig’s director of pharmacy.
“So, when the prospect of having pharmacies being providers of this vaccine (arose), it was just kind of a no brainer. We already had the platform to do that and pretty much everyone on our staff is a vaccinator. We had the means to do it, so I wanted to make sure that we were an outlet for the community, when it came time.”
Suppon said that eventually all Trig’s pharmacies will have the vaccine, but it could take until spring of 2021 for widespread availability, as it will be administered in phases.
“These first phases, they are really only going to be available to places that service long-term care facilities and health care workers,” Suppon said. “That’s where we kind of had a unique availability of the vaccine, because we do service some of those places – long-term care facilities – in some of our market areas. So, that gave us an opportunity to get it ahead of some other places.
“So, it won’t be available in all of our stores right away, but eventually it will. When it is more regularly dispersed amongst the community, we will have it in all of our stores.”
Phase IA for vaccine administration will include healthcare workers, long-term care facilities, and potentially their residents.
Phase IB will address “critical workers,” which looks to include food service places, high traffic business institutions, and the high-risk population.
A Phase IC would be age-based, addressing the elderly population first.
The next phase would address the general population.
Suppon added that these phases are a framework and regulations are in the process of being clearly defined, and it is not clear how quickly the progression will advance through the phases, as it is unknown how much vaccine will be available.
“Right up front, there is only going to be a very limited amount, because not every manufacturer is having their vaccine approved right away. As it is approved, it will be distributed. At the beginning it will be slow and the rate will pick up as more vaccines become available,” Suppon explained.
“The first vaccine – Pfizer – is on the table the 10th of December to be looked at for approval, so I am assuming that it will move pretty quickly upon review at that date; and then, we will start to see (it.) I fully expect it to be before the end of the year, but we could be looking at the third week in December to actually have the vaccine to administer.
“It will be a limited supply, allocated. It is not something that we purchase; we get what we get. But, we are in line to receive vaccine to administer to those specific Phase IA people.”
Suppon said that the pharmacy is under strict guidelines on monitoring the effects of the vaccine.
“There is a very, very strict requirement for follow up with side effects monitoring, reporting. There are strict guidelines that we have to be in compliance with to be enrolled and also to be accepted and granted access to this part of the vaccine,” Suppon said.
“There are quite a few measures to follow up on with our patients. They will have information that will go with them that will let them know, or any entities that they go to. So, it is another healthcare provider or something like that, they will have a vaccination card that will come along that says they got the vaccine and it was this particular one, they got it on this date, this is when they are due for the next one. Then, they will have all of our information to maintain contact with us, so that we can go through those processes of monitoring side effects and things like that.”
Suppon said that safety and trial data look good right now, but the country is still in the learning phase with the vaccine.
“Usually, we learn that stuff well in advance before vaccines come out. Now, we are learning at the same time that it’s coming out,” Suppon said.