Pharmacy alumni help ease patient concerns over vaccine
When the COVID-19 vaccines received emergency use authorization from the Federal Drug Administration, it was as though the nation breathed a collective sigh of relief. Finally, there was light at the end of what seemed an interminably long tunnel.
Now, as part of their efforts to vaccinate as many people as possible, College of Pharmacy alumni are helping ease patients’ concerns about the vaccine.
Addison Livingston, ’97, is CEO and president of Hawthorne Pharmacy and Medical Equipment. His initial focus was to determine how his team could have the greatest impact for the community.
“As pharmacists, we need to be effective in helping to resolve the pandemic,” he says. “Partnering with civic organizations and churches can make a difference to get as many vaccinations completed as possible.”
When a patient has concerns about the vaccine, Livingston and his team approach their questions the same as with any vaccine.
“I want our patients to understand the benefits and the risks and give them information as I would with any medicine that has been prescribed for them,” he says. “If they are hesitant about receiving the vaccine, we’ll talk through their concerns to learn why and help them make the best decision.”
Janet Thames, ’00, says her patients at Blythewood Pharmacy have been eager to get vaccinated.
“The question we received the most initially was about how they could register for the vaccine and not as much over concerns about the vaccine itself,” she says. “Older folks especially were ready to be vaccinated for their safety and health. It means they don’t have to worry about hospitalization, adverse outcomes, even dying from COVID.”
When I talk with them about their concerns and talk about my experience, it makes the patients more comfortable.
Kia Hicklin, Pharm.D. Good Pharmacy, Rock Hill
At Good Pharmacy in Rock Hill, South Carolina, Kia Hicklin, ’03, organized their vaccination clinic, often helping administer an average of 200-300 vaccinations each day.
“I talk with my patients about the benefits and risks of the vaccine weighed against the risk of the unknown if they contract COVID-19,” she says.
Hicklin also shares her personal experience with COVID-19 after she and her husband were diagnosed with the virus in December 2020. While their symptoms were mild, they both experienced extreme tiredness along with a loss of taste and smell.
“When I talk with them about their concerns and talk about my experience, it makes the patients more comfortable,” she says. “They see that our staff is getting the vaccine and doing well, so they are more inclined to be vaccinated.”
Hicklin’s greatest joy came when she had the opportunity to vaccinate her family members, including her parents.
“We had not been able to see them much. It was so exciting to vaccinate them!” she says.
Taylor Meyers, ’15, is an ambulatory clinical pharmacist with Prisma Health–Midlands, educating patients about the vaccine as well as volunteering to administer vaccines at Gamecock Park.
“Some of the questions I get are about the long-term safety data or whether the vaccine is safe to take if they have a particular condition such as allergies or other comorbidities,” Meyers says.
She provides patients with data-driven facts.
“I start with their specific concerns and tell them what I know to be factual,” she says. “If their questions focus more around conspiracy theories, I talk with them on a more personal level to understand their hesitancy and let them know they can always reach out to me. Two people changed their minds and ended up getting the vaccine.”
Rebecca Huggins, ’00, is one of several site managers for the vaccination clinic at Prisma Health Baptist Hospital in Columbia. She noticed some hesitancy in receiving the vaccine, even from some hospital employees.
“One of my best wins came through an employee who was very hesitant. I reached out to her directly and answered her questions,” Huggins says. “She is now one our biggest proponents encouraging others to be vaccinated.”