Making COVID-19 Vaccine Discussions Personal

Pharmacist Jennifer Shannon (right) stands with her mother, who assisted with vaccination efforts, in front of Lily’s Pharmacy in Johns Creek, Georgia.

“I believe in human touch and talking to people directly. It is my method of overcoming fear, doubt, and concerns that are holding people back from getting the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Jennifer Shannon, PharmD, clinical pharmacist and owner of Lily’s Pharmacy in Johns Creek, Georgia. “In all of this, I’m reminded that our community really trusts us and comes to us for their care.”

At one point, Shannon was running COVID-19 vaccine clinics every Tuesday and Thursday from her pharmacy’s parking lot. From March to June 2021, the pharmacy team started vaccinating 100, then 200, then 500 people each time she hosted a clinic. Since Shannon anticipated needing help running the clinics, she posted on her pharmacy’s social media page to recruit volunteers.

“I still remain overwhelmed by our community and our patients. They came out and volunteered their time to help us vaccinate; it was such a huge community effort,” said Shannon about the immense response and support she received. “My biggest shout-out goes to our family. My dad directed traffic, my mom drew up the vaccine doses, and my husband, Mike, and his parents helped distribute vaccine cards to people.”

To let people know that she was available to support their vaccination needs, Shannon posted on social media: “Please come to me as your pharmacist and go to your physician—we are your team. Don’t rely on your computer screen. Please come talk to us!” She didn’t want patients to be alone in the process of researching what was best for them or their families. Shannon also cautions that it is important to remind (but not push or pressure) people to get vaccinated.

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Make conversations personal. Get to know the people who come to the pharmacy and let them know you are there as part of their health care team.

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Shannon believes it’s her duty to spread the message about seeking professional health care advice because she is worried that some people are afraid to leave their homes and are resorting to Googling for information on their own. She wants them to feel comfortable to reach out to their health care providers for advice and guidance. “Normally we can get a feel of what’s going on because they’re coming into the pharmacy or seeing their physicians, but right now that’s not happening,” she said.

When people visit her pharmacy, Shannon listens to their concerns and addresses them the old fashioned way; she takes time to sit down and talk with them about their worries regarding the vaccine. “Some people pull up to the pharmacy and are nervous and afraid. I go and sit with them in their cars to discuss their worries,” she said. Talking to patients one-on-one has made her most successful in convincing people to get vaccinated. Through these personal interactions, she positions her pharmacy as a trusted resource for her community.

Shannon instructs her pharmacy team to “make it personal” by getting to know people who walk through the pharmacy’s doors. This helps pharmacy patrons feel welcome, creates a safe place to ask questions, and opens dialogue about sensitive issues. “I think right now there are a lot of patients out there that feel 100% lost, and now is the time for pharmacists to really continue to rise to this occasion and be there for them at the level they need us to be,” she said.

To date, Shannon’s efforts have led to approximately 14,000 vaccine doses given to help the fight against COVID-19. Her business has dramatically increased because families new to the pharmacy started going there for care. “I think this has been a ray of sunshine for all of us, because many people did not know about us before or weren’t sure what kind of pharmacy we were,” said Shannon. “But when they came for their vaccine, they met me and my husband, my parents, and our whole pharmacy team. And I think when they see all of that, it’s very powerful.”