Pharmacies in Abu Dhabi have started administering Covid-19 vaccines and providing PCR tests. The initiative is in line with the UAE capital’s efforts to make healthcare services more accessible to all community members.
Al Thiqa Pharmacy on Zayed the First Street, popularly known as Electra Street, is the first pharmacy in the city to offer in-house services. Till date, five pharmacies have successfully completed the course certified by the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DoH) to administer Covid-19 vaccines. Apart from Al Thiqa Pharmacy (Abu Dhabi City), the other four are Al Manara Pharmacy in Yas Mall (Yas Island) and Al Ain Pharmacy (Al Ain Mall, Al Hili and Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium).
“In February, the DoH reached out to us to check if we are interested in getting our pharmacists trained to be licensed vaccinators. We accepted the opportunity. Our pharmacists were thrilled. It was about 2 weeks of training provided by certified trainers. The training was on how to administer a vaccine, what to do if an allergic reaction occurs and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation – an emergency lifesaving procedure),” Zakieh Abuelkhair, pharmacy operations manager, Al Thiqa Pharmacy, told Khaleej Times.
After theoretical learning there was a practical session at a hospital, where the pharmacists had to offer Covid-19 vaccines and PCR services.
“Our skills were assessed. Once we passed, we could get the certificate and be officially licensed.”
Al Thiqa Pharmacy made modifications inside the pharmacy to create an area for offering vaccines and PCR tests. They got the site and its facilities approved by the DoH. Soon, Al Thiqa Pharmacy is expected to start such services at its another facility on Sultan Bin Zayed the First Street, popularly known as Muroor Street.
At the pharmacy, there are three main areas: registration, vaccination room and observation space, and people can just walk-in or book an appointment for vaccines or PCR tests.
“There is on-site registration where personal details and Covid-19 vaccines taken in the past are recorded. We check if it’s the person’s first, second or a booster dose. Then their vital signs are checked. The person is told about the potential side-effects of taking a Covid-19 vaccine. Once we get their consent, the vaccine is administered. Then the person has to sit for 15 minutes in the observation area.”
The pharmacy is equipped with all amenities and has emergency response protocols too.
“We ensured that our community pharmacy was well-equipped to deliver vaccines as per DoH standards. Inside the vaccination area there should be a pharmaceutical refrigerator to store vaccines in temperatures between 2 to 8 degrees Celsius. There is a specific area to prepare the vaccine and ensure it is not exposed to sunlight. There is an anaphylaxis kit with epinephrine medicine to give in case of any allergic reaction.”
The pharmacies need to make a tie-up with a nearby hospital to rush a person there in case of any emergencies.
The pharmacy will soon be able to deliver all types of vaccinations, including flu shots, said Zakieh.
“Until now we are giving only the Sinopharm vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine will be offered in the near future. Later, other immunisation services will be given like seasonal flu.”
The pharmacy commenced vaccine and PCR services from July 29 coinciding with the announcement made by the DoH on availability of such services in the neighbourhood.
“We have people who are coming to take their first shot of the vaccine. The feedback from the community has been very good. They are all happy that the service is easily accessible in their neighbourhood. It’s easy for them to come and take a jab or a PCR.”
Mohammed Ahmed, an Emirati national, who took a vaccine shot, praised the launch of such an initiative.
“I thank the health regulators for bringing PCR and vaccination service in our neighbourhood. This has been very convenient. At a pharmacy, you feel at ease too compared to a hospital or a clinic. Also, the staff is well-trained and friendly,” said Ahmed.
Farooq Asghar, pharmacist in-charge, Al Thiqa Pharmacy, noted that Covid-19 vaccines are provided free of charge and the PCR tests cost Dh40 with results being made available in 12 hours.
“We also provide test results in 2 hours but the price is different. Appointments can be booked for both the Covid-19 vaccine and PCR tests. We have a male and a female pharmacist,” Asghar said.
Zakieh pointed out that the role of pharmacists is flourishing.
“They are involved in immunisation services, which is enhancing the role in public health services,” she added.
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