IRVING, Texas — As of Wednesday, May 19, 1,370 community pharmacies affiliated with Health Mart and Health Mart Atlas have collectively administered one million COVID-19 vaccine doses. For underserved and rural communities, vaccine access can be a significant challenge in the initiative to reach every American. Community pharmacies play an integral role in leading vaccination administration in vulnerable areas. Health Mart, the nation’s third-largest pharmacy chain by store count, and Health Mart Atlas, a network of more than 7,000 member pharmacies, are comprised of local, independent pharmacies, participating in state and federal vaccination programs, including Health Mart’s Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. These pharmacists, and their staff, continue to be on the front lines of the COVID-19 response in their communities, many of which serve vulnerable populations. And, patients are grateful.
“Our pharmacy is the only outlet here that has the vaccine,” says Shad Williams, a Health Mart pharmacy patient in Adamsville, Tenn. “However, if there were a dozen different options, that’s where we would go. It’s a trust factor thing.” Williams also shared, “Our pharmacist was quick to get on the phone and let us know of its availability. He not only cares about us because we’re his customers, but because he has taken the time to get to know us. Which in my view, is a big deal.”
Activating with the U.S. government
More than 825 Health Mart pharmacies across 46 states are participating in Health Mart’s Federal Retail Pharmacy Program with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Health Mart pharmacy teams are reaching some of the most vulnerable to COVID-19 according to the CDC’s social vulnerability index (SVI).
“I want to acknowledge the work the Health Mart team has done to make this program possible for our profession, but even more for the people of our county, state and Nation,” shared Jerry Duren, PharmD, pharmacist and owner of Duren’s Health Mart Pharmacy in Waynesboro, Tenn. “I know without a doubt it would not have been possible for us to provide this valuable life-saving service alone. It’s a service that is essential to so many of our patients.”
Several factors, including poverty, lack of access to transportation, and housing may weaken a community’s ability to prevent human suffering and financial loss in a disaster. These factors make up a community’s SVI. Duren’s pharmacy team is helping patients in Wayne County, a community with a 2018 overall SVI score of .77. Possible scores range from 0 (lowest vulnerability) to 1 (highest vulnerability).
Essential support for essential work
Health Mart has facilitated COVID-19 vaccination training for more than 4,250 pharmacy staff members, secured 1,275 digital data loggers needed for proper vaccine storage and activated about 100 new stores a week. Health Mart also provided an online vaccine scheduler, a patient administration documentation tool, and a resource platform to centralize access to vaccine training, tools, and resources, and streamlined required daily activity reporting.
Moving the needle on vaccine hesitancy
Pharmacist Wade Scott said, “The Black community’s distrust toward the vaccine has been built over the course of many years. But our goal is to let people know that this shot is safe and encourage skeptics to consider getting the shot.” To date, the pharmacy has administered 245 COVID-19 vaccinations, tested 1,140 patients for COVID-19 and continues the important public dialogue.
COVID-19 testing impact
In May 2020, select Health Mart pharmacies began COVID-19 test collection in partnership with an approved Department of Health and Human Services testing contractor, eTrueNorth. Participating Health Mart pharmacies offer free COVID-19 testing to patients and to date have collected more than 525,000 tests.
“From vaccinations to point-of-care testing to patient education – community pharmacies continue to be the compassionate and trusted provider you can lean on,” shared Eyad Farah, president Health Mart, Health Mart Atlas and Pharmacy & Healthcare Solutions. “They take the time to listen and care. So naturally, they are the problem solvers for America’s most complex healthcare issues and I’m beyond proud of their outstanding response during the COVID-19 pandemic.”