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Rural pharmacies vital in COVID vaccine distribution

Published: Dec. 15, 2020 at 1:44 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 15, 2020 at 5:48 PM CST
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BOSCOBEL, Wis. (WMTV) - Pharmacies will play a vital role in distributing the COVID-19 vaccine, especially in rural areas where access to health care is limited.

In Boscobel, a town of 4,000 people just west of Madison, Michelle Farrell’s independent pharmacy is prepared to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine.

“The community members are my family and it’s really important to me that they’re protected and in receipt of this vaccine,” says Farrell, the owner of Boscobel Pharmacy.

Two decades of trust built with her customers will become especially important in the months to come. “The community looks to us to set the example and provide you know appropriate information around COVID vaccines,” says Farrell.

There is no firm time-table to when Boscobel Pharmacy will have a vaccine in-house. “I’m really hoping that my staff is actually vaccinated in January. As far as our pharmacy receiving the vaccine, I think we’re probably looking towards late February-March,” says Farrell.

Small town pharmacies like Farrell’s will fill in the gaps across Wisconsin during widespread distribution of the vaccine. “We know that over 90% of people live within 5 miles of a pharmacy. So their locations in rural communities and urban, under-served communities will provide a great opportunity for vaccination services at the local level,” says Sarah Sorum, the Executive Vice President & CEO of Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin.

Sorum also notes that the relationships pharmacists have with patients in the communities they serve will be key in encouraging vaccination. “Having conversations, even now, with your pharmacist about the vaccine is a good idea to build confidence around the vaccine,” says Sorum.

The challenges of shipping and storing Pfizer’s vaccine are points of concern for these communities.

“Having to be stored at the ultra-cold level and getting that equipment in place is just a little more difficult in these areas,” says Farrell.

“But we’re expecting good news from Moderna later this week. That will open up the ability for easier storage requirements, again for rural communities and for pharmacies that don’t have the ultra-cold storage,” says Sorum.

Governor Evers announced Monday that the Wisconsin Department of Health Services has officially activated the federal government’s pharmacy distribution program for the vaccine.

This will allow certain pharmacies to go into long-term care and skilled nursing facilities to administer the vaccine.

“As the vaccine rolled out of the Pfizer plant this weekend the glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel got brighter, and health care providers are ready,” says Sorum.

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