Flagler Health Department and Grace Community Pharmacy Team Up for More Personal Vaccination Campaign

Organized shelves, soft lighting, plant life and a cozy atmosphere are some of the few things that make Grace Community Pharmacy distinctive, like this: While Publix, Winn-Dixie, CVS, Walgreens and Walmart vaccinated for months, Grace was chosen by Flagler County Health Department will be the first community pharmacy vaccination site. She launched her Covid-19 vaccination campaign in March.

Having an “everyone on deck” operation, as Bob Snyder, director of the Flagler County Department of Health describes it, he jumped at the chance when owner and pharmacist Grace Benet reached out to the department. She already had a waiting list of people wishing to be vaccinated.

“She is very skilled in handling and storing vaccine, and as a pharmacist she is one of the licensed suppliers who can administer vaccines,” Snyder said of Benet. “So it’s been an absolute pleasure working with Grace, because you know what’s important here is everyone on the bridge to get everyone in Flagler County vaccinated. We want to be the number one county for the percentage of residents vaccinated. This is why we involve many people. The county is currently ranked seventh or eighth out of 67 in Florida, by the rate of populations vaccinated. “All of our pharmacies and our smaller ones like Grace Community, they play an important role.” (The Department of Health subsequently added One Pharmacy at 85 Cypress Point Parkway in Palm Coast to its community vaccine providers.)

Between the health department which handles about 70% of all vaccines and the surrounding pharmacies which handle the remaining 30%, the county is approaching 50,000 residents with at least one injection, to date. That’s almost half of the adult population. A community pharmacy can play an inordinate role in helping those most reluctant to get vaccinated for one reason or another. The “community” aspect comes into play when customers are more comfortable discussing their concerns with their pharmacist.

“We’re not more concerned with volume, but rather with convenience and experience,” says Benet, although Grace went all out with her own marketing campaign: you could find her flyers pick up your vaccine from local doctors. offices across the street, at AdventHealth, for example.

Benet was born in the Philippines, graduated from Santo Tomas University in Manila in 1994 and moved to Flagler County in 2006. She raised her children there and worked as a pharmacist in a large drugstore chain for fourteen years. Once she had the resources to start her own pharmacy, she opened Grace Community Pharmacy. To 80 Pinnacles Drive across from Advent Hospital in September 2020.

Benet welcomes patients with hospitality and helpfulness with his son Gilroy Benet, commercial director of the pharmacy. Gilroy graduated from Flagler Palm Coast High School in 2012. After studying at Boston College and Ateneo De Manila University, he became one of the county’s award-winning native sons, returning to his hometown to help his mother to run the business. The family business is “focused on the needs of the community,” explains Gilroy Benet.

While the pharmacy manages prescriptions and drug treatments for around 2,000 patients, it has been able to perform 1,000 Covid tests and administer more than 1,000 Covid vaccinations since last week. As for the vaccine, the pharmacy offers the Moderna two-shot and the Johnson & Johnson one-shot, although last week the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration recommended a pause on use. of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine due to concerns. on blood clots in a handful of patients. (See: “Johnson & Johnson vaccine suspension: doctor explains what it means for you. ”)

Since then, Grace Community Pharmacy has sent a mass text message to all former and future recipients of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine advising their patients that they will no longer administer the vaccine until further notice. For now, the pharmacist says she has had no reported side effects – none have been reported in Flagler County for any of the vaccines – and the pharmacy will continue to give patients the Moderna injections.

“Unlike the big drugstore chains, which only see Flagler County as another market, we are more responsive to the needs of the community. Said Grace Benet. Les Benets create a more personal experience. Each vaccine is administered by Grace Benet herself, making the experience as comfortable as possible: The fact that Grace gives each vaccine herself adds a personal touch that people might not get at other pharmacies. She’s their one-stop-shop for questions over the phone or in person, questions about drugs, prescriptions, concerns – and now for their vaccines.

Go through the vaccination process in a large pharmacy chain itself, Gilroy Benet was able to identify the problems that many people face when getting vaccinated. “The main problem they have is really accessibility,” he says. “This is the number one priority that we have, you know, designed the entire immunization system for. Some 59 percent of patients who have received the vaccine (as of April 19) are elderly. One of the main avenues used to access immunization appointments is through a pharmacy website which, at the time, was quickly booked within minutes of opening. Grace Community Pharmacy recognized the frustration of seniors when trying to access spots online, so in responding to them, the Grace Community Pharmacy team made sure that was not the only option. (To book online visit here. For other options see the Flagler County page here.)

Ardent Family Care, one of Flagler County’s largest primary care practices, is across the parking lot at Grace Community Pharmacy and refers a significant number of their patients to them. “Many of these elderly patients cannot access online,” says Dr Renato Alfonso of Ardent. “And one way for them to get the shot is to send them straight back to Grace, where they could just come in, talk to Grace, and then Grace could just physically put them on the list, and that helps a lot.”

Taking the word community to heart, Benet stresses the importance of having community partners as part of the vaccination campaign. Dr Alfonso and Robert Perri, nurse practitioner at Ardent, detected the reluctance of some residents to consider the vaccine. “These are definitely patients who are reluctant to get vaccinated,” Perri says. “I think it has a lot to do with fear. I think it’s just a lack of knowledge about how the vaccine works.

Both healthcare professionals use Grace Community Pharmacy as a reference for getting vaccines and more information about vaccines. “I want to make sure they’re educated, factually, not by internet news,” Pwerri says of patients, “but facts through journal articles, medical research, the science behind the vaccine and don’t rely on friends and Facebook for their credibility information. ”

“As this is a private pharmacy, she takes great pride in providing care to our patients,” Perri said of Grace.

Gilroy Benet, left, graduated from Boston University and returned home to work at the family business his mother and pharmacist Grace Benet, left, opened last year.  (© FlaglerLive)
Gilroy Benet, left, graduated from Boston University and returned home to work at the family business his mother and pharmacist Grace Benet, left, opened last year. (© FlaglerLive)

Note changes to the health service immunization schedule :

These changes begin Sunday, April 25, with drive-thru vaccinations offered between 10 a.m. and noon across from 120 Airport Road in Palm Coast. No appointment is necessary for this weekly operation. In addition, residents can receive their first doses on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the same location. Again, no appointment is necessary. Note that outdoor vaccination clinics will close if there is a stormy weather.

Other immunization activities planned for this week include:

Wednesday April 21 and Thursday April 22 from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Thursday will be the last time the first doses will be given at the fairgrounds until further notice. The health service will accept walk-ups without an appointment on both days.

· Friday April 23 – St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, 4600 Belle Terre Pkwy from 8:30 am to 11:30 am. Appointments for the first dose can be made by calling the church office at 386-446-2246.

· Saturday April 24 – St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, 4600 Belle Terre Pkwy from 8:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. First doses by appointment on myvaccine.fl.gov.

Sunday April 25 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. in front of 120 Airport Road. This is a drive-thru site and no appointment is necessary.

The Ministry of Health’s current immunization awareness efforts are expanding to include local businesses. The department has already reached out to Coastal Cloud to vaccinate their employees, spouses, and children 18 and older, and is also working with the Flagler Beach Business Bureau to vaccinate local restaurants and their employees. These vaccination events will take place over the next two weeks. If your company would like the department to come and vaccinate employees on site, please call 386-437-7350 ext. 0 weekdays between 8 am and 4:30 pm This is the same number that residents can call to ask about second dose appointments.

On testing, the DOH-Flagler has reduced the number of Covid-19 tests it offers each week to accommodate its robust vaccination activities. This week, testing will take place on Thursday April 22 and Friday April 23 from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. across from 120 Airport Road. No appointment is necessary, and test results are available within 2-3 days. Other Flagler County sites offering Covid-19 testing include two Medicick sites, Grace Community Pharmacy, CentraCare, Palm Harbor Family Practice, and CVS Pharmacies. Please confirm with each site in advance as some require appointments.

For more information on the Covid vaccination and testing efforts, please visit https://floridahealthcovid19.gov/.


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