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Moundsville Pharmacy Steps Up To Help With COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

Photo by Scott McCloskey Moundsville Pharmacy owner Jason Turner said he and his staff are elated to play a part in vaccinating residents throughout the region against COVID-19.

MOUNDSVILLE — When the state called on local pharmacies to assist with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, Moundsville Pharmacy was happy to step up to the plate with local distribution, which they say has helped people overcome their concerns and take the shot.

Pharmacy owner Jason Turner said they had answered a survey sent out by the state, which sought to find local dispensaries to help distribute the vaccine in November. Their offer was accepted, and Moundsville Pharmacy was selected to serve Marshall, Wetzel and Tyler counties, starting with society’s most vulnerable populations.

“We were ready for the opportunity, so they started with high-priority groups,” Turner said. “We were assigned some long-term care facilities, because those were the Phase 1A groups. We vaccinated patients and staff, and then an assisted living facility, patients and staff. We were also allocated some doses for health care providers.

“Eventually, … schools reached priority, and each school system had to find a participating pharmacy to partner with, and Marshall, Wetzel and Tyler counties reached out to Moundsville Pharmacy to see if we were interested, and, of course, we were. … Those have been our primary focus groups so far.”

Moundsville Pharmacy most recently administered 170 doses of the vaccine to Marshall County Schools personnel over 50 years old, with an additional 272 doses given the following week, this time to employees age 40 and older.

The community ties Moundsville Pharmacy has cultivated, Turner said, has had a visible effect on peoples’ willingness to be vaccinated.

“We’ve had a number of patients who have specifically requested that they get their vaccine from us, their local pharmacy,” he later added. “They were not interested in dialing the phone 300 times to go to a mass clinic. These patients are patients who have always gotten their vaccines from us, their flu and pneumonia vaccines, their prescriptions, and we are the ones they trust. They do state they prefer to get it from us.”

Gov. Jim Justice made it a point to focus West Virginia’s vaccine distribution on local pharmacies rather than join the federal partnership that left the inoculations in long-term care facilities to companies like Walgreens and CVS.

“There’s so many people who depend upon their local health departments, their local pharmacies,” Justice said recently on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “A lot of governors sat on their hands, trying to come up with a system or a formula of what they were going to do. We didn’t sit on our hands. We acted.

“We brought our local pharmacies in,” Justice continued. “We brought our local health departments in. We brought our National Guard in and started putting shots in people’s arms.”

That has played a huge part in how quickly West Virginians have been vaccinated. As of Friday morning, the Department of Health and Human Resources said 146,469 of the 156,300 first doses, or 93.7 percent, the state has received have been administered. West Virginia has given out another 35,991 second doses to fully inoculate those residents.

Turner said he was proud that his team could be at the forefront of the vaccine efforts in the Ohio Valley without compromising on their ordinary health care duties.

“I’m very proud of our team, and I know our team is proud of our efforts,” Turner said, “because we’ve been working very hard to maintain our existing level of services, and also to take on these additional responsibilities of helping to vaccinate the community.

“Hopefully it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and this isn’t something we experience any more of,” he added. “The opportunity to step up and help has been really rewarding for me as a business owner, for our pharmacists, and really, for all of our pharmacy staff.”

Turner said there are four different locations throughout Marshall, Wetzel and Tyler counties, and that means the large staff size allowed them to be somewhat flexible with allocation of duties, continuing their normal tasks as a pharmacy while attending to vaccines.

“We’ve been able to pull from those staff, and some of our part-time staff, to fill the void in our hours, and we have a group of people who are just truly dedicated to being helpful in the community, and we’ve got people who have been working very hard to make sure everything’s done right.”

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