Represent Your Community, Show Them They Matter, and Meet Them Where They Are

Vondalyn Wright, PharmD, vaccinates a patient at a local community event in Tampa, Florida.

Vondalyn Wright, PharmD, vaccinates a patient at a local community event in Tampa, Florida.

“I have patients who regret not getting the COVID-19 vaccine after they became really sick with the virus,” said Vondalyn Wright, PharmD, owner of Health Matters Pharmacy in Tampa, Florida. “Right now, I have a young patient in her thirties on a ventilator because of COVID-19. She wishes they had gotten vaccinated when she had a chance.”

As a Black owned and operated pharmacy in Tampa, Wright takes pride in her pharmacy for being the community pharmacy where patients are her top priority. “Our team puts our patients first. We provide reliable care and show all our patients that their health matters,” she said.

Although Health Matters Pharmacy serves all patients regardless of background, one of Wright’s missions is to make sure that Black and Brown populations are not left behind. “We work with our community leaders to help our people, when nobody else will, get the same resources and access to care as in affluent communities,” she said. Many of her patients at the pharmacy are seniors with barriers such as limited access to transportation and low health literacy.

“We spend a lot of time in the community educating and meeting people where they are,” Wright said. “They trust us because we are from the very community that we serve, and we make sure people know that they matter. We have been providing care packages that include face masks, sanitizer, and gloves to help keep our community safe.”

After Wright reached out to her district’s representative in the Florida House of Representatives, Dianne Hart, to advocate for the community, Health Matters Pharmacy became one of the first independent pharmacies in East Tampa to receive shipment and administer COVID-19 vaccines in March 2021. Wright made sure her pharmacy was a good model for the community by having all her staff get vaccinated and broadcasting her own experience receiving the vaccine on television to let people know that she believes in the vaccine. The pharmacy now offers all three COVID-19 vaccines for people who have a preference.

“We went to apartment complexes to educate and encourage residents to get vaccinated,” said Wright. The pharmacy’s employees also went to laundromats, people’s homes, and homeless shelters to vaccinate community members because Wright knew that many would not visit the pharmacy or go to a doctor’s office to get vaccinated. Wright was surprised to learn that many people in the community weren’t aware that the vaccine is free of charge. “We don’t want people to not get the vaccination just because of transportation or any other barriers,” she said.

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Represent your community and communicate that you believe in the vaccine. If people see someone who looks like them get the vaccine, they will feel more confident about getting it too.

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After visiting an apartment complex to provide vaccines to residents, one of Wright’s pharmacists walked around to the corner store and openly listened, educated, and talked with people she met there. “She was able to vaccinate three more people that day,” said Wright. “People are encouraged by others who look like them advocating to get the vaccine, so we try to be the face of diversity.”

Wright is also committed to mentoring students of color to show them professional opportunities in pharmacy. “[When] growing up, I never saw a pharmacist that looked like me, so I teach students and other pharmacists to understand their options,” she said. “We can have our own pharmacies in our own communities, and I am happy to share with them that we are here for our people and that it’s possible.”

To date, Wright’s efforts have led to Health Matters Pharmacy supplying a couple thousand doses of COVID-19 vaccine to help fight the disease and bring society back to a new normal.

—Clarissa Chan
August 2021

Learn more about how to Educate Your Health Care Team and build confidence in COVID-19 vaccines.