WAPATO, Wash. — It’s been a busy week for Deepak Dhruva and his staff.
Dhruva, the pharmacist/co-owner of Horizon Pharmacy in Wapato, received 975 doses of coronavirus vaccine, and had a week to get them into people’s arms. Saturday was the last day, with 200 doses going out to 100 people who had made appointments, as well as walk-ins who qualified for the current round of vaccinations.
“It almost feels like a lottery system from the (Yakima) Health District," Dhruva said of his getting the allotment. “For the health district, it’s like a lottery system from the CDC (national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), who is going to get vaccine.”
Those who braved cold weather and slick roads on Saturday to get to the Wapato pharmacy were grateful they were able to get the vaccine.
“I didn’t know how long I had to wait,” said Mary Kay Anabtawi, a Yakima resident. “I’ve been eligible because I’m over 65, and no matter who I called, there was nothing.”
Washington is currently in Phase 1, Tier 1B of its vaccination program. People older than 65, those 50 and older who are in multigenerational households, health care workers, first responders, and long-term care staff and residents are eligible.
While Washington recently passed the milestone of 1 million vaccinations, the state does not have enough vaccine for everyone who qualifies right now. Dhruva said the state had requested 450,000 doses from the federal government last week, but only received about 200,000. The doses are allocated to pharmacies, hospitals, clinics and other distribution points.
Horizon Pharmacy applied to receive doses of the coronavirus vaccine to dispense and got word last week from the health district it would receive 975 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine. The doses came with a dry-ice freezer to keep the vaccine at minus 80 degrees.
But once the vaccine was prepared in doses for the day, they had to be used or thrown out. Dhruva was determined that no shots would be wasted, calling in people near the end of the day to get shots.
The available slots for appointments filled up “within minutes” as people applied online, Dhruva said. Some people were coming from as far as the Tri-Cities and North Bend, but he was worried about his customers who lacked the skills or the technology to register for shots through the Internet.
He had his staff go through the patient records to identify those who were eligible at this time for vaccination and make appointments for them. He saw it as part of his commitment to his customers.
For the pharmacy, it was an “all hands on deck” situation, and then some. On Saturday, the back area of the pharmacy was filled with staff processing paperwork for the vaccinations, while others, aided by volunteers, including some from Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital and Washington State University’s pharmacy program, administered doses or handled the line of people coming in.
People were getting their vaccinations in the pharmacy’s consulting rooms, as well as a partitioned-off area in front of the main counter in the store.
Once they got the shot, they got their card, which had the date when they were to come back for the next round, which Dhruva hopes to have in stock.
Anabtawi found out about the immunization clinic after her husband scoured the internet and found the clinic.
Stan Helmka, a 79-year-old Yakima resident, enlisted the help of a younger friend who was more internet-savvy to find him a Saturday morning slot.
“He’s a pilot and he’s good with all that iPad stuff,” Helmka said.
For him, getting the shot was part of his effort to avoid contracting the virus or giving it to others. He also had himself tested recently just to be on the safe side.
“I get around a lot, and I want my contacts to be assured that I am COVID-free,” Helmka said.
Dhruva noted most people were eager to get the shot.