Minister of Health Tyler Shandro makes an announcement in Calgary on October 7, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Shandro: 1,400 pharmacies stepped up to fight COVID-19

Since day one, Alberta has worked hard to get vaccines into arms as quickly as possible. With almost 5 million doses administered, we are quickly emerging from the pandemic and getting back to normal at a record pace.

On behalf of all Albertans, I want to thank the thousands of health care workers across Alberta who were involved in the pandemic response and vaccine rollout.

For months, health care workers have worked incredibly hard to administer millions of vaccine doses through hundreds of clinics province-wide. AHS has launched rapid flow clinics, walk-in clinics and drive-thru clinics, continually adapting to deliver vaccines to Albertans.

Physicians have also stepped up, helping vaccinate patients throughout the province. Local partners, community agencies, and many others have also done remarkable work to get people vaccinated.

In particular, I want to thank the 1,400 pharmacies and thousands of pharmacists who have stepped up to administer over 2 million doses.

When the first COVID-19 vaccines arrived in December, we needed to move quickly. Alberta’s pharmacists were uniquely positioned to respond to this challenge in all areas of the province, especially throughout rural Alberta, where pharmacists are often the most consistently available and trusted sources of information for Albertans health care needs.

That’s why Alberta created the most expansive pharmacy rollout for vaccines in Canada. We knew our pharmacists were ready and able to safely handle a large volume and fast pace. Alberta’s government was honoured to provide the support and funding to ensure that pharmacies were an integral part of the rollout.

Alberta’s pharmacists are among the best in Canada and internationally recognized as leaders in pharmacy. Alberta’s pharmacists were the first in Canada to be entrusted with handling and administering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. They were also the first to reach one million vaccinations given at pharmacies. From big cities to small towns, they have driven our vaccine rollout forward.

It hasn’t always been easy. The incoming supply of vaccines was repeatedly been delayed or cut during the first months of this year. Many pharmacists had to work extra hours and pharmacies had to hire extra staff. They’ve patiently countered misinformation with solid research and facts about vaccine safety. In between answering the phone and managing lineups in stores on days when newly eligible Albertans rushed to get their appointments, they’ve also managed to fill prescriptions and take care of non-COVID-19 health concerns too. All this, often on a one-on-one basis.

More than 1,400 pharmacies stepped up to win the fight against COVID-19. On behalf of all Albertans, I would like to express my gratitude to them and to all the other health care workers who have helped look after and protect us all. The next time you see your local pharmacist, physician, or any other health care provider, helping vaccinate Albertans, say thanks.

We couldn’t have opened for summer without them, and we will stay open because they stepped up when we needed them most.

Tyler Shandro is the Minister of Health.

Alberta Health Services Central ZoneHealth