PAWTUCKET – The family-owned Simpson’s Pharmacy may be small in stature, but it’s playing an outsized role in the fight against COVID-19 thanks to a staff that’s working hard to vaccinate hard-to-reach populations.
Cheryl (Simpson) Stoukides, who runs Pawtucket’s last remaining family pharmacy at 10 Newport Ave., told The Valley Breeze last Friday that the pharmacy had administered Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to some 500 people over three weeks of operation.
Simpson’s, as the last small pharmacy in Pawtucket, was chosen as part of the city and state’s effort to identify locations to reach people in populations that might not be easy to get vaccines to, including older residents without access to technology and minority residents who don’t speak English as their first language. There’s a huge population of people in this area who are 75 years old or older, she said.
Pawtucket resident Cynthia Craige, a senior citizen, said she was immensely happy to be able to get the vaccine so close to home and not even have to travel to one of the city’s larger clinics. She said she also appreciated getting help with each step of the process.
Craige said the only thing she doesn’t understand is why not everyone would want to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
This is such a techno-savvy vaccine process that it’s “ridiculous,” said Stoukides, which is why they’ve set up a computer at the front of the pharmacy to help people through the process. Many people are walking in with neighbors, she said, and the staff is working with local doctors and health providers to locate more people to get vaccinated. So far, not one vaccine has been sent back, she said, in part because staff have scrambled to find people willing to be vaccinated.
One 101-year-old resident who couldn’t get out of her car even received her vaccine through her car window in the front parking lot, said Stoukides.
“Roll down the window, boom,” she said, smiling.
She said Mayor Donald Grebien and the city have been great to work with.
Other pharmacies were making the vaccine available early, she said, but they weren’t getting a state supply as Simpson’s is receiving.
Three additional clinics posted last Thursday for this week, totaling some 300 more vaccines to be administered, were booked within a day, she said.
Simpson’s could probably handle as many as 200 vaccines per day, she said, but they’re trying to keep people spaced out and safe.
Shianne Fernandes, a vaccine-certified student at the University of Rhode Island’s College of Pharmacy, has been helping out at the Simpson’s clinics, sitting alongside Stoukides as they check people in and get them a shot in the arm.
On March 9, Gov. Dan McKee joined Mayor Grebien, Department of Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott, Rhode Island Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green, Executive Director of COVID Response Tom McCarthy, Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals President Francis Flynn, National Education Association Rhode Island President Lawrence Purtill, Pawtucket Teachers’ Alliance President Ronald Beaupre, and Pawtucket School Committee Chairman Gerard Charbonneau in Pawtucket as he announced the statewide initiative to vaccinate teachers, school staff and child care workers.
A number of those who have been vaccinated at Simpson’s so far have been in those categories, and there have also been quite a few younger residents with underlying health conditions, said staff.
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