Former president of the Pharmacy Board Wazir Hosein assists a customer on Tuesday.

As medical personnel continue to suffer from burnout triggered by the overload of COVID-19 cases, former president of the Pharmacy Board Wazir Hosein is calling on the government to use pharmacies to assist with the vaccination rollout.

Hosein said 80 per cent of pharmacies across the country are well equipped to store vaccines and if given the opportunity, pharmacists can assist doctors and nurses with administering vaccines.

“I strongly believe we should be part of the vaccination process. With minimal training, we can do this. We already have the patient load and the trust of patients,” Hosein said.

If qualified pharmacists are given the all-clear to vaccinate, Hosein said this will reduce crowding at the ministry’s mass vaccination sites.

“As part of CDAP, we dispense insulin so we have storage capacity. Most vaccines can be stored under these conditions. We have facilities and a distribution network. Nipdec is doing a good job with distributing medication to pharmacies and adding vaccines to the list will not be that difficult,” Hosein said.

He lamented that people were still congregating and socializing even though Trinidad and Tobago is in a State of Emergency.

“We only have 1.3 million people. We are heading in the right direction concerning vaccination. If pharmacies are brought on board soon, medical personnel will be free to care for the COVID-19 patients, rather than to double up doing mass vaccinations at the various centres,” he added.

Several weeks ago, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh revealed that the same staff who are caring for COVID-19 patients were the same ones who were administering vaccines.

Saying it was important to ramp up vaccinations soon as they prepare to get the virus under control, Hosein said vaccinations were being done in pharmacies in other developed parts of the world.

He said under the CDAP programmes, pharmacists have a patient load of 300,000 people.

“We have a good distribution of pharmacies. The spacing, appointments can be done so that it will not be cumbersome,” Hosein said. He added, “Vaccination training can be done online and with different practicals, pharmacists will be prepared for vaccinations in this pandemic.”

Hosein, who operates Wazir’s Pharmacy in San Fernando reiterated, “All hands need to be one deck and pharmacists can make a significant difference in freeing up the nurses for the hospitals.”

He noted that Deyalsingh is a pharmacist and should realize the role that pharmacists can play.

Meanwhile, pharmacist Nalini Dial agreed that pharmacists could have a part to play with vaccination rollout.

“I am in total agreement with pharmacists assisting the government with vaccines. This will help to alleviate the stress being experienced with our health care workers. They will be able to work shorter shifts and assist the doctors and nurses who work in ICU and HDU,” Dial said.

She noted that pharmacists do cholesterol testing and blood sugar testing so administering vaccines will not be a problem.

“However I believe that those pharmacists who are selected to administer vaccines, must have over 10 years of experience and should have a good track record of professionalism,” Dial said.

President of the Pharmacy Board Andrew Rahaman told Guardian Media that he was in favour of the suggestion and would take the matter to the Ministry of Health.

However, Minister Deyalsingh was not available for comment as calls and messages went unanswered.