The first shipment of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines arrived at the Ponoka Professional Pharmacy on March 12. (Facebook photo)

The first shipment of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines arrived at the Ponoka Professional Pharmacy on March 12. (Facebook photo)

Ponoka Professional Pharmacy all booked up for COVID-19 shots

Owner/pharmacist says experience has been ‘rewarding’

After the first two days of their COVID-19 vaccination campaign, Ponoka Professional Pharmacy owner/pharmacist Jamil Rawji says the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

The Ponoka Professional Pharmacy began administering doses on March 15 and is currently the only pharmacy in town offering COVID-19 vaccinations.

Although many people are usually scared of needles, there has been a different kind of excited anticipation.

“It’s not a negative experience at all, even for the patients,” said Rawji, adding that administering COVID-19 vaccinations has been the most rewarding experience he’s had in his 26 years as a pharmacist.

It’s been an emotional two days, as people receiving the vaccine have been happy and ecstatic, he says.

“It’s that glimmer of hope … there’s been tears of joy that there’s a start to the end.”

He says it’s also been “phenomenal” to be able to provide the vaccine locally for those who aren’t able to drive or would otherwise find travel inconvenient.

In order to be selected to receive and administer COVID-19 vaccinations, the pharmacy applied, was approved based on certain criteria, and then was randomly selected.

“We were fortunate enough to meet all the criteria,” said Rawji, adding there is a long list of requirements.

Only select pharmacies are able to distribute the vaccine due to limited vaccine quantities and storage and handling requirements.

Those 65 years and older and First Nations aged 50 and over in Alberta are currently eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, under Phase 2A of the provincial vaccination roll out.

The pharmacy was initially allocated 400 doses of the Moderna vaccine, and all of those have been accounted for.

Alberta Health Services had advised a second shipment of another 400 doses would be coming, but the pharmacy has since been notified that is no longer the case due to uncertainty over supply.

It is unknown when more doses will be delivered to the pharmacy or how many, and there is now a wait list.

When more doses are available, those who are eligible can book an appointment by calling the pharmacy directly at 403-783-7333.

Starting on Monday, March 15, participating pharmacies were able to provide Moderna or Pfizer immunizations for Albertans who are part of Phase 2A, which includes those 65 to 74 years old and First Nations, Metis and Inuit people 50 years of age and older.

Staff and senior residents of licensed supportive living facilities not previously eligible are also included in Phase 2A.

AHS is booking thousands of COVID-19 immunizations each day, with 17,300 Albertans having booked appointments since Phase 2A began Monday morning.

A list of participating pharmacies is available at www.ab.bluecross.ca.

Appointments can be booked directly with a participating pharmacy. Albertans born in 1948 or earlier, and First Nations, Métis and Inuit people born in 1963 or earlier, are able to book through AHS through the online booking tool or by calling 811.

Eligible birth years may change daily, so visit alberta.ca/covid for the most-up-to-date information.

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