When recruitment began for vaccine distribution, Megan Byrne was at the head of the line.
Late in December, news broke that would change our pharmacy school careers for good: “FDA approves Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in the United States.” Not only did this announcement shine a light toward the end of the tunnel, it also opened the door of opportunity for student pharmacists to dive into action. At my health-system, hospital administrators immediately looked to the pharmacy department to help with vaccine distribution, and the pharmacy department looked to its pharmacy interns.
Pharmacy interns played, and continue to play, a critical role in distributing the COVID-19 vaccine. At my health-system, interns had the skills to administer or prepare the vaccinations using aseptic technique. When I saw the hospital recruiting interns to help, I knew that I wanted to get in on the action! These past few months have been difficult. Because of COVID-19 social distancing limitations, I’ve been missing the direct patient interactions. So, I signed up to administer vaccinations, and eagerly awaited my shift.
Flexing my skills
On the morning of my first shift, I awoke feeling anxious but excited to get the hands-on patient experience that I’d been missing, and to flex my vaccination skills. I knew that vaccine approval and distribution would be a pivotal change in the pandemic. But I was also anxious about the unknown: How would the shift go? Would anyone have an adverse reaction? Would today change how I felt about getting vaccinated in the future?
The team at the vaccination clinic consisted of a multitude of different professions—pharmacy, nursing, and medical—as well as nursing assistants. We were all assigned our vaccination stations and briefed on the day’s agenda. A total of 550 doses were scheduled—the most we’ve had so far. Next thing I knew, it was time to start vaccinating!
The patients for the day were primarily hospital employees. My first patient was a woman on the environmental services team. Her enthusiasm helped to set the mood for the rest of the shift. I had a blast administering vaccines throughout the day! With each patient came a new story of their gratitude, excitement, and hope. At the end of the day, I felt more hopeful than ever.
Proud to do our part
As of press time, I’ve received my own first dose and am waiting for my second. The chance to tackle this pandemic and move forward is decidedly worth the temporary arm soreness!
This experience reinforced my belief that both pharmacists and student pharmacists play a critical role on a health care team. By using our skill sets and abilities, student pharmacists across America can do their part in fighting COVID-19.