Pharmacist Tailors His Approach to Each Person’s Concerns

Pharmacist Kevin Musto (far right) with pharmacists and paramedics at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Dover International Speedway in Delaware.

Kevin Musto, PharmD, understands the concerns around COVID-19 vaccinations among the undocumented immigrants in his Smyrna, Delaware, community. These individuals, who have worked so hard to fly under the radar for so long, fear that getting a vaccine that’s paid for and promoted by the government could make them traceable by immigration authorities.

Musto, who owns Atlantic Apothecary in Smyrna, ensures that immigrants who want the COVID-19 vaccine know they don’t need to show identification documents or even provide their real name to get vaccinated.

“I tell them that they just need to provide the same name and birthdate for their second dose that they gave for their first,” Musto said. “That gives them a little less anxiety and gives me more opportunity to get them vaccinated. Most of the time, they are willing to get it as long as they know I’m not going to give the government their information.” This strategy has also helped Musto vaccinate many of the Chinese and Latino people in his community.

Behind each hesitant person, though, is a different concern.

“You have to understand where their anxiety is coming from, validate it, and remove it upfront so you can talk about why they really don’t want the vaccine,” Musto said. “I say, ‘This is something I’m offering you for free to protect you and your family. Why wouldn’t you want this?’”

Musto partners with a local African American minister to coordinate COVID-19 vaccination events conducted at African American churches and community centers. When he speaks to would-be patients who show hesitancy, Musto acknowledges that many are still gathering information but he believes they will get the vaccine eventually. “I say, ‘I know you don’t want the vaccine today, and I respect that. I will be back in three to four weeks. Maybe then, you will be ready.’ I plant that seed, saying that I know they will get the vaccine someday, so that when I do go back, oftentimes, that person is there for a first shot.”

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Address each patient’s personal barrier to get the vaccine out to as many people in the community as possible.

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Addressing each patient’s personal barriers helped Musto get the vaccine out to as many people in his community as possible—as did the training he provided to other immunizers in the state. Delaware used the National Guard to staff mass vaccination events. When immunizers struggled to get as many doses possible out of each vial, they called upon Musto to teach them how.

“You don’t know you need a pharmacist until you need a pharmacist,” Musto said. He arrived early in the morning prior to a mass vaccination event to teach immunizers how to get more than six doses of the COVID-19 vaccine out of a vial. “Each one of those doses represents a life,” Musto said.