With multiple drug companies’ vaccines rolling out in the US, it finally feels like the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is in sight. As more vaccines become available, demand has increased for volunteers and healthcare workers to administer the vaccines. World Immunization Week comes at a crucial time as people receive much-anticipated vaccines.
Mike Kunz, Marketing Multimedia Manager- Global Marketing Corporate Services and his wife, Kate Kunz, have spent the past few weekends volunteering at a neighborhood pharmacy. They helped thousands of people receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Read about their experiences volunteering at an independent pharmacy below.
Give us a quick synopsis of your duties at the vaccination site.
MK: We worked with a pharmacist, Loc, who organized the clinic. When we got started, he gave everybody a rundown of how the vaccination process would work.
Throughout most of the day, I greeted people and helped them get organized. I made sure everybody knew where to park and where to line up, as well as calmed people's worries. Once they were in line, I confirmed their name and appointment time, and directed them to Kate at the check in table.
Kate had an identical list to double check everyone’s names before taking their paperwork. At the end of the day, we made an exact count of no-shows and cancellations. That way, we could track the total amount of doses that were left over and begin calling people on the wait list.
KK: Mike was outside managing the line, making sure everyone was on the list. Then they'd come inside and give us their paperwork, name, and appointment time. I pulled their paperwork to make a copy of their insurance card. Once they got their insurance card back, we sent them over to get their vaccine.
It was pretty quick once people got in the door—usually under two minutes. Once they received their vaccine, they went over to a waiting area so they could be monitored for 15 minutes. After that, they were allowed to go home.
How/why did you get involved with volunteering? Have you always enjoyed volunteering?
MK: Kate spearheaded us getting involved at this site. She has always worked with independent pharmacies and understands that they are a pillar of the local community. Specifically seeing a local pharmacy become a vaccination clinic was pretty monumental to take part in.
KK: I work closely with independent pharmacies and we do a lot of advocating on their behalf. Right now, it's all about the CDC expanding access for independent pharmacies—they have such a strong connection with their communities and their patients.
Especially with the vaccine rollout, I saw how much pharmacies were putting in the effort to vaccinate their communities. I was interested in seeing that all come to life and participating for the betterment of public health. I was excited to help in a direct way.
What’s something positive/inspiring you saw on the scene? What was something challenging you witnessed?
KK: It was an exciting and positive experience. It was amazing to see how excited people were to get their vaccine, specifically some elderly folks. I believe one patient was 99, and he received his shot via curbside vaccination. That’s another advantage of getting your vaccine at an independent pharmacy—that personal touch and extra level of care.
MK: I met the gentleman who was 99 years old. We were able to get him checked in from the car when he arrived with his son. We notified that pharmacist and he was able to get vaccinated right there in his car. He was thankful and impressed with the operation, which was impactful to see firsthand.
Overall, it was inspirational to see everyone feel thankful for the work being done.
Based on your experience, what do you want people to know in order to stay safe?
MK: What’s interesting about this experience is seeing firsthand the biggest step towards getting back to normal. It’s like we’re a part of the final stage of bringing the pandemic to an end. Ultimately, I think people should continue to wear masks and stay socially distanced and follow the guidelines we’ve been given.
KK: I suggest continuing to follow the protocols as outlined by the CDC. I think the vaccine effort is a huge step in the right direction, but it’s critically important to keep up with everything that we’ve done already. That way, we can continue to make progress and hopefully get back to normal.
What is the biggest takeaway from your experience?
MK: It’s exciting to be a part of. Seeing hundreds of people getting vaccinated at one neighborhood pharmacy is impressive. I know it’s only the beginning and there is still a long way to go—but it was uplifting, like were on the right path.
KK: It’s exciting and encouraging. It's impossible to know what the future holds or what normal looks like after this, but to me, my perception is that this is a huge first step.
Has your professional life influenced your thoughts about COVID or volunteering?
MK: I started working at PRA right in the middle of the pandemic. Even though I’ve worked in this industry for a while, this is my first time being involved in the clinical research side. Learning about clinical trials and PRA’s involvement has been influential.
KK: The value of independent pharmacies as healthcare professionals has been highlighted through this pandemic. As awful as the pandemic has been, I hope that people now see their pharmacist as a health care professional they can trust.
Pharmacists and healthcare professionals have stepped up and helped within their communities throughout this entire process. After seeing what they've gone through and what they've done this year, I have a whole new level of respect for everything that they do. It showed me how critical independent pharmacies are to the whole healthcare system.
Will you continue to volunteer post-pandemic?
KK: I’ll continue to volunteer with independent pharmacies and continue to look for those opportunities. It’s been a good experience so far, so I want to help again.
MK: I will continue to volunteer. Kate and I are fortunate to be healthy and have the ability to help out where we can.
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