“Where I need to be in 2021” – Pharmacy staff reflect on supporting COVID-19 vaccination clinic

Friday, April 30, 2021

Since it opened in March, the Health Sciences Campus Clinic has been staffed by a hardworking local health care providers and volunteers. The Region’s third-largest mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic is run by the Centre for Family Medicine and housed on the first floor of the School of Pharmacy. Many staff, faculty and students from the School of Pharmacy support its operations outside of their normal schooling and job hours.

Robin Andrade and Rosemary Killeen are two of these staff members. Andrade (below) is a Professional Practice Instructor and Registered Pharmacy Technician.

“As health care professionals, providing this service to the public is essential, so I didn’t even blink an eye when the opportunity arose,” she says. “I knew this is where I needed to be in 2021.”

Robin Andrade preparing a syringe

Killeen, the Director of Distance Education and Continuing Professional Development, is a pharmacist, and like Andrade she felt compelled to help.

“I’ve been interested in public health and the prevention side of things for a long time and completed post-graduate study in public health and health promotion a few years ago,” she says. “I never thought I’d have the chance to put any of what I learned into practice right here at home during a pandemic. But those courses in epidemiology have really come in handy. When I heard about the clinic here at the School, I wanted to help out if I could.”

As a pharmacist, Killeen acts as one of the pharmacist supervisors. She manages vaccine inventory for clinic appointments and oversees the team of pharmacists, technicians and students mixing and drawing up the doses. Andrade is a member of this team preparing syringes, and although the Pfizer vaccine is challenging to work with due to its physical nature, the team has refined their skills and works hard to get the full six doses out of every vial.

Once prepared, pharmacist supervisors like Killeen (below) check each dose before it goes to the vaccinator and complete paperwork. Given the nature of the Pfizer vaccine – including sensitive temperature requirements – the paperwork is quite significant.

Rosemary working at a laptop wearing PPE

Despite the challenges, both women have found the clinic to be an exceptionally rewarding experience.

“What I didn’t expect was the intense feeling of joy around the clinic. Everyone is happy to be there and to assist in any way possible,” says Andrade. “The patients are also so thrilled to be getting their vaccine and the staff and volunteers always have a smile on their face. Walking into a positive environment and providing this service is a priceless experience.”

For faculty and staff of the School who are often trained health care professionals but don’t work full-time on the front lines, the clinic has been a meaningful way to contribute to the fight against COVID.

“Several members of my family are healthcare professionals or essential workers who’ve been on the front line throughout the pandemic, so I’ve been pleased to finally have a chance to do my part,” Killeen says. “The other staff seem to be like me - pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to something positive after the last year. Last week I said, ‘Whoever said Disneyworld was the happiest place on earth hasn’t been to a COVID vaccine clinic!’”

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