ASHLAND – The first COVID-19 vaccines were administered in Ashland last week to first responders.
Ashland Pharmacy administered the vaccine to members of the Ashland fire and rescue departments as well as pharmacy staff on Dec. 23, according Staci Hubert, Ashland Pharmacy owner and pharmacist.
Hubert said the pharmacy was chosen to administer the vaccine in Ashland because they have been doing flu immunizations there for many years, and they are also doing COVID-19 testing. Three Rivers Public Health Department assigned Ashland Pharmacy to administer the vaccinations.
“We’re happy to be able to be one of the first line pharmacies,” she added.
The pharmacy received 30 doses of the vaccine to administer under the state’s vaccination plan. The state’s first phase is set up to vaccinate health care personnel and residents and staff of long-term care facilities in phase 1A and first responders, workers in the food/agricultural, utilities and transportation industries and educators in Phase 1B.
Three Rivers reported Monday that they are working through Phase 1A, tier 2 and 3. Tier 2 includes primary care nurses, physicians and home health staff/hospice. Those in tier 3 include pharmacists, oral surgeons, dentists, dentail assistants, dental hygienists and school nurses.
Ashland Fire Chief Mike Meyer said members of the fire and rescue departments were among the first in the community to receive the vaccine because of the potential for exposure when they go on calls. About 20 have been inoculated through the pharmacy, with others receiving the vaccination through their employers.
“All fire and rescue are susceptible to the same issues, so that’s why (we) got it,” he said.
The US Food and Drug Administration approved the first COVID-19 vaccine, made by Pfizer, two weeks ago. A week later, drug company Moderna’s vaccine was given approval.
The Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective and the Moderna vaccine is 94% effective based on three clinical trials. The flu vaccine, in comparison, is 40 to 60% effective. The vaccine does not contain a live virus and cannot give the recipient COVID-19.
Ashland Pharmacy received the Moderna brand of the vaccine because it does not require the ultra-cold temperatures that the Pfizer vaccine does, Hubert said. The Moderna vaccine comes in a vial that contains 10 doses. All of the doses must be administered quickly.
“Once we open it up, we have six hours to get it in someone’s arm,” Hubert said.
So they do not waste any of the vaccine, a coordinated effort is being made to schedule patients. For example, Hubert worked with Meyer to schedule firefighters and EMTs for inoculation.
“We really want to make sure that no doses are left unused,” Hubert said.
Meyer reported that he and his colleagues have reported some of the common side effects that were listed as being possible. Three Rivers stated there can be soreness at the injection site, fever, headaches and body aches. These usually last only 24 hours. No serious side effects have been reported.
“It’s relatively mild compared to what the sickness can bring,” Meyer said.
After Phases 1A and 1B are completed, the next phase of the vaccination plan includes people over the age of 75, vulnerable populations and people living in congregate settings (colleges, jails, etc.). Hubert said she has already been receiving inquiries about when the vaccine will be available for the elderly.
“When the state gives us the OK, we will let people know,” she said.
Hubert also is planning for the Ashland Pharmacy to assist in administering the vaccine to local long-term care facilities. The state launched the Federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care Program, which began administering the vaccine at long-term care facilities on Monday. Originally, only Walgreens and CVS pharmacies were to take part. But Hubert has been told that rural pharmacies like Ashland Pharmacy may be enlisted to assist.
“We are authorized to help if the need arises,” she said.