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Valley Pharmacy begins distributing COVID-19 vaccines

VALLEY — Valley Pharmacy started giving COVID-19 vaccinations on Friday. Three pharmacists, Angie Moore, Crystal Smith and John Minter, have been administering them, and the public response has been good so far. This past Friday was the first day and a total of 20 people were vaccinated that day. A total of 10 people received a COVID-19 shot on Saturday and 20 were scheduled for Monday and 30 more on Tuesday.

At the present time, vaccines are being given to those who are at least 75 years of age or are a frontline worker such as a healthcare worker, first responder or an educator.

“We want everyone to understand who can be vaccinated here,” said Valley Pharmacy co-owner Craig Moore. “We signed up to do this through the Alabama Department of Public Health. Alabama is under the previous CDC guidelines that list the vaccine to those wh0 are at least 75 years of age, a healthcare worker, first responder or school teacher.”

For those who qualify, the best way to be put on the list is to text (334) 498-1353, give your age and phone number. “Don’t text us if you don’t qualify,” Moore said. “That just slows us down.”

Valley Pharmacy is administering the Moderna vaccine. It comes in two doses with a 28-day break between the first one and the second one.

The main advantage of having the Moderna vaccine as opposed to the one from Pfizer is that deep freezing is not necessary.  Such a unit would cost in excess of $20,000. The Moderna vaccine can be safely stored in refrigeration units already at the pharmacy.

There is a possible supply and demand problem to deal with. Valley Pharmacy was given a total of 500 doses of the vaccine. At present, a total of 250 people can be guaranteed a second shot. There will have to be an increased supply to accommodate more people. Craig Moore is hopeful that will be taking place.

“Our supply arrived Wednesday night, and we started vaccinating on Friday,” he said. “We have been creating a list of people to be vaccinated for several months now. We have over 20 pages of names of people who want to get it here. The best way is to call or text to schedule an appointment, and remember, don’t call if you are not at least 75 or a front-line worker.”

The first round of the Pfizer vaccine went into the arms of local healthcare workers. It’s being administered by the East Alabama Medical Center, EAMC-Lanier and the Chambers County Health Department. Most local healthcare workers have gotten that vaccine, but the few that remain to be covered can get their shot at Valley Pharmacy if they’d like.

Getting the vaccine usually takes approximately 20 minutes. From start to finish, getting the dosage into someone’s arm takes around five minutes. The person receiving the shot is asked to stay an additional 15 minutes to see if they have any kind of adverse reaction. Thus far, no one getting a shot has had such a reaction at Valley Pharmacy.

Two local educators were among those receiving vaccinations on Monday morning.

Thus far, Pfizer and Moderna are the only vaccines available in the U.S. Johnson & Johnson will be rolling out one late this spring or early summer, if the FDA approves it. The advantage of that vaccine is that only one shot would be necessary.

The pandemic has killed close to 420,000 Americans in a little more than a year. New strains of COVID-19 have recently been detected in the United Kingdom and South Africa.

“The verdict is still out on what this means,” said lead pharmacist Angie Moore,.“The main concern is that it’s thought to be more transmissible, but it might not be as deadly as the original COVID-19.”

The husband and wife team of Craig and Angie Moore have been hard hit by the virus.

“You never know when you can get it, and you never know how you got it,” Craig said. “This past August we took a trip to Alaska and had a great time. There weren’t nearly as many visitors they normally have to the places we went to like Denali. The planes we flew on were only half-filled. We were able to take that trip, not get sick and return home fine. We go into people’s homes a lot with medical equipment and are around people in the pharmacy. We were getting along fine until we came down with it in November. We didn’t have much of a Christmas this year.”

The Moores got COVID-19 around Thanksgiving and just about their entire family was affected.

Craig’s mom was in the hospital at EAMC for 28 days. She’s doing well now but had to go through a period of relearning cognitive skills and learning to walk again.

Minter is a local pharmacy legend. He owned and operated Valley Pharmacy for 38 years before selling the business to the Moores nine years ago. He’s still active in pharmacy and well on his way to having 50 years in the field. He has children who are medical doctors.

“What we want to get out there,” said Craig Moore, “is that we can vaccinate people here in the pharmacy according to CDC guidelines accepted by the state. Right now, that’s people who are at least 75 years of age, healthcare workers, firefighters, police officers and teachers. This may become updated, and when it does we will inform the public.”

There’s some speculation that the age limit could drop to 65.

“We started this on Friday, and have been vaccinating an average of two people every 30 minutes,” Angie Moore said. “We’d like to be able to vaccinate three people every 30 minutes.”

Valley Pharmacy signed up with the Alabama Department of Public Health several months ago to be a vaccination site. A total of 883 provider sites were approved, but thus far only around 380 of those sites have received the vaccine in hand.

To some extent, it’s a matter of being a pest to get a vaccine shipment.

“We have been pretty aggressive about calling the health department about this,” Craig Moore said. “We’ve also gotten (State Rep.) Debbie Wood to help us. She knows all the right people to talk to. We’re glad to have gotten 500 doses of the vaccine. We will do what we can to get it into people’s arms. We hope to have more vaccine on the way.”

Information on where and when vaccinations will be taking place is listed on APDH.org, the Alabama Department of Public Health’s website.