A small but mighty east Auckland pharmacy has singlehandedly delivered more than 46,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to date, making it the second-best performing pharmacy involved in the city-wide vaccine roll-out.
Unichem Pakuranga has in recent months evolved into so much more than a pharmacy, to meet the demands of the diverse community it operates in, during the Omicron outbreak.
Pharmacist Vicky Chan says it’s been an especially busy, challenging time.
“In the last three to four weeks [during the city’s peak of Omicron] we’ve been trying to provide whatever support we could from a pharmacy point of view.
“That would involve doctors giving referrals, and supporting people in isolation in terms of prescriptions.”
Ms Chan says she’s seen a lot of big families with children coming down with COVID-19 and asking for medicinal support.
“It’s been hard in a way juggling... but the team has been amazing, really flexible. We have a couple of people doing deliveries to isolating families.”
In late December 2021, when Omicron case numbers first started rising in the community, she says it was daunting but they have taken it all in their stride.
“We’ve developed a flow and now have a system in place for prescriptions where we call people up, assess the need, arrange the time and get it done.”
She says she’s constantly reminding people who walk in to get their boosters if they’re due, or if they’ve had COVID-19 to wait until three months after they’ve recovered to get their booster.
Ms Chan says even though Auckland has passed its peak in cases, people still need to be cautious.
“We have a lot of elderly patients… a lot of them have grandchildren, some of them have had COVID, I still worry about the senior people more than others.”
Her advice to other pharmacies in other parts of the country with high case numbers currently is this:
“Just try your best to schedule the workload. It is quite hard when you’re doing rapid antigen tests, COVID vaccinations and trying to provide care to COVID patients on top of your normal work… just remember to look after each other.”
She says the booster rate in her community is not bad but it’s an ongoing, important conversation.
“As is encouraging people to get their flu vaccination as soon as possible.”
For those making overseas travel plans now that the border is open, she says it’s important to consider both getting the COVID-19 booster, as well as getting the flu vaccine before setting off.
All going well, Ms Chan hopes she too can finally re-book the holiday she had planned in December – but once the upcoming flu season has passed.