No Hurdle Too High for Community-Based Immunizers
Nambe Drugs staff and volunteers with two vaccine recipients at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Los Alamos High School in New Mexico.
For Frances and Tom Lovett, no barrier is great enough to keep them from administering COVID-19 vaccine to a member of their community. Their vaccine efforts over the course of the last year have been marked by creative solutions in tricky situations.
“Anything and everything we can do to vaccinate the members of our community—we’ll do it,” says Frances Lovett, PhC, who is a pharmacist clinician at Alma Family Medicine in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She and her husband, Tom Lovett, BSPharm, own Nambe Drugs in Santa Fe and Los Alamos.
On a snowy Valentine’s Day 2021, when an older adult couldn’t navigate her way across the icy pavement into the local high school gym to receive her vaccine, Frances Lovett sent word for the patient to wait in her car. Then the pharmacist gingerly tiptoed across the ice to the patient’s car to administer the vaccine.
Inside the school gym, patients waiting to be vaccinated sat distanced on the bleachers. When a teenager with autism panicked due to the crowd, the lights, and the sensory stimulation, a volunteer rushed over with a smartphone and headphones so that the patient could watch a movie while he waited.
“We did whatever it took to complete the process safely,” Tom Lovett said.
A family brought an especially difficult challenge to the clinic at Alma Family Medicine. The family of five arrived in a van with the intention of getting one of their family members, who has a traumatic brain injury, vaccinated by holding down her arms and legs. But physical restraint didn’t turn out to be necessary.
Frances Lovett climbed into the van and sat with the patient. “The family stood by, and I just had to take the time to talk to the patient,” she said, “and then provide a little bit of distraction. She let me rub her arm, and then the vaccine was done before she knew it.”
Tom Lovett focused on in-home vaccines for homebound patients. Eventually, the couple set up a network of home immunizers. In partnership with Los Alamos Fire Department and New Mexico Aging and Long-Term Services, they had a team of immunizers ready to do home vaccinations whenever needed.
“We served homebound patients, immunocompromised patients, and those who were high anxiety or special needs and couldn’t handle the stimulation of a large vaccination clinic,” Frances Lovett said.
Communicate the facts to patients at their own level and understand that it may take more than one conversation for them to be comfortable about getting vaccinated.
The Lovetts weren’t daunted by overwhelming turnouts either. At one of their early mass vaccination clinics, they didn’t know how they’d manage to vaccinate the 300 people on the roster. “Then we ended up with anywhere between 700 and over 1,000 folks on a given day,” Frances Lovett said. “It was extraordinary how smoothly things went—a credit to everybody who offered what they could and paddled really hard underneath the surface to coordinate everything.”
When patients had apprehensions about COVID-19 vaccines, the pharmacists eliminated those barriers, too. Frances Lovett recalls a patient who was dead set on getting the Janssen vaccine, however the single-dose vaccine wasn’t on hand. She didn’t want to turn him away and risk that the patient wouldn’t get vaccinated at all.
Although the patient wanted a single-dose shot, Lovett shared the data with him that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are also effective. Eventually, he agreed to get an mRNA vaccine.
At Nambe Drugs, Tom Lovett also encounters patients who have their hearts set on the Janssen vaccine. When that happens, he presents the data to them. If these patients are unmoved, he says, “I’ll find pharmacies or clinics that are giving that one and direct them there. I don’t want to try to talk anyone out of getting one over the other.”
To date, COVID-19 vaccines administered through Nambe Drugs have totaled more than 14,550 doses.
“This is a small community, where people are invested in taking care of each other,” Frances Lovett says. “We are a part of that community and this is how we support it.”
Learn more about how to Tailor Your Outreach and improve vaccine confidence.