There’s excitement brewing in the richly diverse community that a North Shore pharmacy looks after, with overseas travel plans really starting to take off.

Unichem Browns Bay has, since it first joined the city-wide vaccine roll-out in August last year, had the unique interests of its many ethnic groups top of mind.

Supported by the Albany Vaccination Centre run by Waitematā District Health Board and Asian Health Services, the pharmacy held a series of special vaccination events for its Korean, Filipino, Myanmar and Chinese communities back in September.

Hundreds took up the opportunities to get vaccinated with their first and later their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. To date, the pharmacy has successfully delivered more than 36,000 doses, the third highest vaccination rate of all pharmacies in Auckland.

Pharmacist, and lead cheerleader for her community, Christina Shin, says the current Omicron outbreak has been tougher than expected but thankfully her wonderful team hadn’t been hit too badly.

“We’ve been very lucky and only had one staff member who came down with COVID-19.”

At the peak, she says they were very busy supporting isolating families with up to 10 deliveries of medicines per day. Now, she says, it’s around five or six a day.

With case numbers dropping off, Ms Chin says many of her patients are embracing the now very real prospect of finally reuniting with their families overseas.

Her team has been really busy carrying out pre-departure testing for people.

“People have waited a long time for this. Lots of people… for example our regular customers, who are quite elderly, haven’t had a chance to see their grandchildren for two or three years who are in Australia and Fiji and elsewhere.

“It’s great to hear that they can do it now.”

Ms Chin too cannot wait for her own trip back home to Korea later this week.

“I’m going for four weeks. I haven’t been back in about three years.

“My grandparents are there and my mum is there at the moment.

“I’m taking my little boy with me… really looking forward to it!”

But caring for her community is still a priority for Ms Shin, who’s now also focussing on increasing flu vaccination rates.

There’s been good uptake so far with demand for the vaccine streaming in, she says.

“We’re doing about 50 a day at the moment.”

She says her elderly patients have been telling her they are worried about coming down with the flu and the potential for other outbreaks with the borders having re-opened.

Ms Shin is also concerned about the flu impacting her team this winter in particular. She’s glad everyone is making getting that vaccine a priority.

Flu vaccines are free for the following people; those aged 65 and over, Māori and Pacific aged 55 and over, pregnant people, those with underlying health issues, including asthma, diabetes and heart conditions, and children aged under 4 with pre-existing illnesses. You can get your free flu vaccination from your GP or healthcare provider, with many pharmacies also offering it to people aged 13 and over.