Pharmacy phones ‘ringing off hook’ as young people chase vaccines

Limited vaccine supplies an issue as pharmacies involved in rollout await more stock

Mark O’Flaherty of Strand Street Pharmacy in Skerries, north Co Dublin

Mark O’Flaherty of Strand Street Pharmacy in Skerries, north Co Dublin

 

Mark O’Flaherty, owner of the Strand Street Pharmacy in Skerries in north Co Dublin, learned that pharmacists would be involved in vaccinating Ireland’s young people as he ate his cornflakes on Friday morning.

“It came as a little bit of shock because I didn’t have any kind of pre-notice, but I fully understand it’s a rolling situation. They’re trying to duck and dive as new variants come out.

“I fully understand where they’re coming from, to be honest. I don’t hold anything against them because they’re doing their best under the current circumstances.”

So far, O’Flaherty’s pharmacy has given out all of the vaccines that it received for over-50s, though he believes it will be a couple of weeks before he will have stocks to deal with younger people.

“We’re still a little bit in the dark, but as soon as we get deliveries, for certain, we’ll have them straight into people’s arms,” he says, adding that because they stay open until 10pm, they should be able to “do a good number of people”.

He hopes that he gets a significant supply because the vaccines he received for the over-50s are just “a drop of the ocean compared” to what is needed for younger age groups.

The telephone has been “ringing off the hook” throughout Friday.

More pharmacists might have applied to be vaccinators had they known they would end up covering other age groups, not just the over-50s, since they were fearful that they would be left with unused stock in the fridge.

Space limitations

Kevin Fletcher, the managing pharmacist at Skerries AllCare, said his pharmacy was not selected by the Health Service Executive on the grounds that it did not have enough room for people to wait 15 minutes after being injected.

Like other pharmacies, AllCare received a large number of calls on Friday. “It’s mainly been the people in 18-34-year-olds. If not them, then their parents are phoning in to find out if they’re eligible to get it,” he says.

In Galway, pharmacist Treasa Kilroy in McSharry’s pharmacy, believes pharmacists should have been involved in the vaccination campaign from the beginning “just like [with] the flu vaccine”.

Currently, the pharmacy has 50 doses of Johnson & Johnson, but more are expected soon, and though they have had little demand from over-50s, they have had “a huge amount of interest from young people”.

Laura Hogan in Pat Hogan Total Health pharmacy, Fr Griffin Avenue says they are waiting for 50 doses of Johnson and Johnson, but so far have had no demand from over-50s, though “the phone has never stopped ringing”.

Laura Hogan in Pat Hogan Total Health pharmacy, Fr Griffin Avenue, Galway
Laura Hogan in Pat Hogan Total Health pharmacy, Fr Griffin Avenue, Galway

In Boots on Shop Street, Galway, Ava Hovenden says the branch is already booked out: “I’m not sure when we will get another stock. We will vaccinate 30 people with the J&J vaccine.

“We can only have five people per day and not every day, because we’re very busy. We need two chemists, one for the vaccine and one to take care of the pharmacy,” she says.