Over the course of four days, Walgreens partnered with University of Georgia's Institute on Human Development and Disability, Hope Haven of Northeast Georgia, Georgia Options and the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) to host COVID-19 vaccination clinics for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, family caregivers and direct support staff.
Some of the recommended everyday precautions, like handwashing or social distancing, become challenging with reduced mobility or understanding. Adults with disabilities are three times more likely than adults without disabilities to have heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or cancer. In turn, all of these underlying conditions can place a person at higher risk of infection or severe illness from COVID-19.
Noting the vulnerabilities this population faces, the Georgia DPH coordinated with Walgreens to organize dedicated, adapted clinics in the Atlanta area. The result? Relieved patients, grateful healthcare partners and one very proud pharmacist. Read on for their reactions after completing the four-day clinic.
Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H., commissioner, Georgia Department of Public Health: Vaccination is so important for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but getting a vaccine can be extremely challenging for them. This collaboration with agencies like Hope Haven and Walgreens demonstrates our collective ability to provide the vaccine in a safe and familiar location to these individuals.
Amy Moore, executive director, Hope Haven of Northeast Georgia: I am so grateful for the partnership and collaboration that took place to make this vaccine clinic a reality. The staff from Walgreens was so understanding and supportive to our individuals and family members. Hope Haven was honored to be a part of such an important step in getting our community back together again.
Shauna Markes-Wilson, pharmacist and area healthcare supervisor, Atlanta: Our pharmacists did a really great job because they took the cues from the caregiver and the patient to make sure that everybody was comfortable and had what they needed before we initiated the vaccination. We prepared as a team to ensure that they knew patients might have different reactions and to take extra time if needed.
We made sure we were staffed appropriately just in case it might take a 15-minute conversation to vaccinate someone. Sometimes we’d need to show a little extra care in case a patient had anxiety over the shot.
Markes-Wilson: The caregivers were especially excited. We got a lot of thank-yous for being there and making it convenient. We had an indoor and drive-through portion. Pharmacists and nurses would bring carts around to the cars, open the doors and give the shot. Then, they’d check them out after the observation period.
Walgreens has been doing offsite clinics for some time with flu shots. The process and procedures, we already have those down. I was just extremely proud of how smooth it all went because we were able to give people the extra care they need. Being able to make it more convenient and bring people access was the highlight for me.
Personally, I’m on cloud nine as a pharmacist. I truly feel like we are helping to make a difference, especially because everyone wants to get back to some sense of normalcy. This is the way to do it. I’m driven to do as many clinics as needed.