Student Pharmacist and Newly Minted Immunizer Connects With College Students

Student pharmacist Elaine Marji, CPhT, prepares a COVID-19 vaccine for administration at a Walgreens in Buffalo, New York.

Student pharmacist Elaine Marji, CPhT, prepares a COVID-19 vaccine for administration at a Walgreens in Buffalo, New York.

At a COVID-19 vaccine clinic on the campus of Cazenovia College in central New York state, a student approached the immunizer, Elaine Marji, CPhT, and asked, “Do I have to get a COVID-19 vaccine?”

“No, you don’t have to,” said Marji, a relatively newly minted immunizer, already a certified pharmacy technician, and a current student pharmacist at the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the State University of New York at Buffalo. “But it’s a good idea.”

Marji could see that the young man was uneasy. Although he didn’t seem eager to get the vaccine, he stuck around the clinic. So, Marji tried to get him to talk. She asked him what was keeping him from getting a COVID-19 vaccine. He explained that his mother wanted him to get it, but that he just wasn’t sure. In fact, he added, his mother and everyone else in his family had gotten the vaccine. He was the only one left.

To break through the young man’s reluctance, Marji told him that she and everyone in her family had gotten the vaccine, too. “And they are all fine,” she told him. “Hundreds of people have gotten the vaccine in this clinic, and they are all fine, too.” She shared some information with him about the vaccine’s safety, efficacy, how it works, and the possible side effects.

“I told him I felt bad for a few hours after I got it,” Marji recalled.

Then, rather than press him to stay and get vaccinated right then, Marji encouraged him to take the information back to his mother and discuss it further with her. But the student didn’t go far. He called his mother from the clinic site and talked to her for a little while. Then he returned to Marji’s station and told her he was ready.

“He told me that because I had been honest with him and wasn’t trying to force the vaccine on him, that he was more open to getting it,” Marji said.

In the early days of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, Marji often felt that patients in the pharmacy were put off by her age or relative inexperience, but she didn’t feel this way during college campus clinics. “Mostly in my career so far, I feel like people have thought I was too young or that I shouldn’t be vaccinating people, but I don’t have that problem on college campuses,” she explained.

With the days of long lines of patients at mass vaccination clinics on college campuses behind her, Marji says it’s important now to educate them on the importance of staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccines.

Practice Pearl

Although the initial rush to get COVID-19 vaccines has come and gone, pharmacy staff should continue to educate patients on the importance of staying up to date with boosters.

Learn more

“COVID isn’t going away,” Marji said. “It’s a virus that will be with us forever…patients are still susceptible to it, so it’s still important to encourage them to stay up to date with vaccines and boosters.”

Resources to Educate Your Health Care Team to Discuss the Importance of COVID-19 Vaccination with patients are available at APhA’s Vaccine Confident microsite.