Navigating New Populations

As processes and guidelines evolve, independent pharmacy always proves to rise to each occasion and maintain the highest level of service and knowledge. Our team recently sat down with WSPC Board Member, Dana Porter, MBA, to discuss her experience as a multi-store owner (Bright La Mirada Pharmacy, Bright Plaza Pharmacy, Tustin Pharmacy, and Villa Park Pharmacy) in vaccinating adolescents aged 12-18.

As the COVID-19 vaccine became available for children 12-18, Dana’s stores saw a shift in their daily operations that has carried on to present-day. She began to notice a large push right before school had started and continues to observe that roughly 25% of those coming in to be vaccinated belong to this age group. Taking on a new demographic was no challenge, but Dana does anticipate an altered landscape when it comes to approval for young children. She shared, “We’re going to get the clearance for either ages 6-12 or 2-12 very soon and this will definitely change things. Our staff will face new challenges when it comes to administering the vaccine to those afraid of needles. We have experienced very few cases already; however, our staff will be prepared to handle similar situations as this younger wave is authorized to receive the vaccine.”

Regardless of challenges to come, these stores exemplify the true essence of our industry: tending to each patient with attentive expertise. Staying this course has continued to open doors for Dana’s pharmacies in the long run. Beginning in February 2021, Dana was conversing with an AmerisourceBergen business coach about receiving vaccine allocation. After this initial conversation, she had reached out to a few school districts to try and organize a vaccination clinic, and if in fact the pharmacies were able to receive the allocation in time, the school district was on board to work together. Due to time sensitivity, a local hospital was able to receive allocation before Dana’s pharmacies and the district had decided to partner with the hospital. In turn, this contact did plant a seed for future collaboration.

“Now that we are coming up on the opportunity to open the vaccine to younger children and the second big push for boosters, our contacts and communication are established. I just got a call from one of the school districts regarding California vaccination mandates for teachers before October 15th. Schools are now scrambling to meet this date and there are currently 120 unvaccinated employees.”. Dana mentioned that these circumstances not only involved an advantage to provide vaccinations, but also COVID-19 testing. Aside from encouraging the vaccine, the school district plans to require staff members who do not wish to be vaccinated, to be tested on a weekly basis. Dana has been brainstorming with a Superintendent of a local district on the timing and proper marketing execution to ensure vaccination and testing for the teaching staff. This district represents around eight elementary, three junior high, and six high schools; a giant spotlight opportunity for the pharmacies.

COVID-19 vaccinations have also allowed for new conversations to open for independent pharmacy. As contacts are made and targeted services are needed, new opportunities arise to discuss each store’s full scope of offerings. In Dana’s case, an Assistant Superintendent of a local high school (who also happened to be a patient) shared that previous flu vaccine clinics had always been contracted and fulfilled by Walgreens. This opened up a position to advertise the stores’ capabilities—independent can do it too!

Dana explained, “In a lot of these cases, I think initially, the way these schools are thinking is ‘Oh, we just need to get it done and we’ll go to a chain because they’re bigger and can handle it’. Through continuous conversation, it became clearer that things don’t necessarily have to be handled on a given day or organized clinic, we are also happy to do those, but we are here all the time. We have resources and this is not a big deal to us, we can definitely take care of everyone. I think there’s been such a push in the pandemic for small businesses, that hopefully, things will begin circling back our way. These kinds of opportunities are huge, and hopefully in this case with school districts, they now have the context to partner with and refer patients to us.”

As independent pharmacy continues to showcase the critical role it fills, this is the time to continue to shine in all that is available to patients. It was apparent that the capacity at which Bright La Mirada, Bright Plaza, Tustin, and Villa Park Pharmacy all function continues to expand indefinitely; always striving to bring the highest quality of care to their patients. Dana concluded, “This whole sequence of events has put us on the map for people to know we are here. And once they come in, they’re always very pleased with the service they get, that our staff is friendly and really gets to know them. Eventually they come to know that we also have other services in the store as far as UPS drop-off, Postal station, Amazon lockers, and the range of OTC items we sell up front. We have so much to offer and provide value in areas that make a distinct difference.”