Frontline in COVID-hot communities but unvaccinated

Pharmacy workers wonder when they’ll get immunized

Frontline in COVID-hot communities but unvaccinated

LYNN, Mass. — It services one of the state’s hardest-hit Covid communities, but workers at Flag Pharmacy have no idea when they’ll be getting vaccinated against Covid-19.

“Every day we worry about possibly bringing this home to our families,” said pharmacist and owner Oleg Urem. “We try to take as many precautions as we can. But we’re a pharmacy. We service our communities. We can’t just stop what we’re doing and close for a month. What would happen to the patients who need medicine? So it is very frustrating for us.”

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Urem doesn’t deny that doctors and nurses at hospitals involved in direct Covid-patient care needed quick vaccination -- but he points out that working in a pharmacy -- especially in a community with a high number of covid infections -- carries risks, too. Staff are in direct contact with customers. And deliveries during the pandemic to private houses and apartments have become more numerous.

Not only can’t pharmacy workers get vaccinated -- they also say the state hasn’t told them when they can begin administering Covid vaccine to customers.

The Department of Public Health told Boston 25 News Monday it would have news regarding community healthcare worker Covid vaccinations soon -- but that public vaccinations wouldn’t begin until April 2021.

That is quite a bit later than an earlier estimate, according to Todd Brown, director of the Massachusetts Independent Pharmacy Association.

“Their initial estimate was pharmacies would be vaccinating the public sometime in February,” Brown said. “I’ve asked the Department of Public Health a couple of times now and still haven’t gotten an answer.”

Also looking for that answer: pharmacy customers.

“A lot of phone calls, a lot of people are anxious to get the vaccine,” said Saad Dinno, RPh, co-owner of four pharmacies in the Boston area. “Like I said, we’re ready to roll... it’s just getting the vaccine in our hands.”

Once that vaccine is in Dinno’s hands, he expects huge demand -- not only for his stores, but also at big chains such as CVS and Walgreen’s.

“We want to be at the forefront of vaccinating as many people as possible,” Dinno said. “Obviously this has been a tough year for a lot of people. We just want to assist in any shape or form we can to get rid of, once and for all, this pandemic.”

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