'See the joy:' Pharmacy students lend a hand as COVID-19 vaccinations expand

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Some seniors receiving COVID-19 vaccinations are showing up to appointments in their best outfits and leaving full of joy thanks to student pharmacists like Safeer Chatoor.

“It’s an indescribable feeling when you look into their faces and see the joy,” said Chatoor in a Monday new release from the University of Alberta (U of A).

“You can just see the relief on their faces as they get vaccinated,” added Chatoor, now doing his practicum at a large pharmacy in Londonderry Mall. “They’re so excited to get back to their normal lives because they’ve been cooped up in their places of residence for so long.”

Chatoor is one of dozens of students able to help give the jab before graduating in June; the pharmacy practicums coincided with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

U of A practicum student Mina Nagib said on the first day the vaccines rolled out at his southeast Edmonton pharmacy, the mood was celebratory.

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“People came dressed up to get their vaccine, wearing suits or traditional dress,” said Nagib, thrilled to be one of the first students in Canada to administer the vaccines.

“Hopefully we can soon return to things that we previously took for granted, like attending an in-person social event, or going into a classroom with 300 participants, or being able to see people’s facial features without a mask on.”

Pharmacy students are trained to administer shots in the third year before spending up to 32 weeks in their fourth year at such on-the-job placements.

“This represents an opportunity for our students to participate in a much-needed public health activity that will save lives,” said Ann Thompson, assistant dean of Experiential Education for pharmacy students. “They get authentic, real-world experience to prepare them for the practice environment they are about to enter.”

Phase 2A of Alberta’s vaccination plan started Monday with shots now offered to those aged 65 to 74, First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) people born 1971 or earlier, and staff and residents at licensed seniors supportive living facilities not included in Phase 1. More than 300,000 people in long-term care and health care have already received their immunizations.

For now, the Pfizer vaccine is available at more than 100 participating pharmacies across the province. Most people in Alberta choose to get their flu vaccine at a community pharmacy because of the convenience, Thompson said, and pharmacies are well positioned to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine.

Alberta Health Service reminds those who have had the shots that until more people are fully vaccinated, everyone must continue following all public health measures: no indoor social gatherings, keep two metres apart from others, wear a mask in public, wash your hands, and stay home when sick.

Those who have been vaccinated are less likely to become sick with COVID-19 but authorities are still trying to determine if the vaccine prevents vaccinated people from spreading the virus.

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