Delivering the Vaccine on Milwaukee’s North Shore
Kyle Beyer, owner of North Shore Pharmacy, is vaccinating hundreds of patients for COVID-19 just months into owning his first store.
He began remodeling the store in October of 2020 and though that work is done, he is just beginning to wade into the hard work of vaccinating his community against the Coronavirus.
North Shore Pharmacy is administering 200-250 vaccines each week, which is a little less than half of what Beyer has determined he and his staff could do. Though he isn’t at full capacity, the silver lining is that he is administering vaccines far sooner than he initially expected to.
“We used the state allocation, a month and a half to two months ago when DHS came out with the application forms to become a state of Wisconsin COVID-19 vaccinating site, we completed the paperwork and completed the trainings and then sent it all in,” Beyer said. “At that point it wasn’t very clear how long it would be until we got doses, we actually were just planning on being rolled out at some time for the general public, we did not actually think we’d be getting doses as soon as we did.”
For five weeks they have been receiving the Pfizer vaccine, though there were initial concerns about storage of the vaccine, this hasn’t been an issue for Beyer and his staff.
“This Pfizer vaccine is good until its expiration date at its ultra-cold temperature, but once you break it out of dry ice its good for 120 hours at refrigerated temperatures,” Beyer said. “We get our vaccines on either Monday or Tuesday each week and we have 120 hours from the time that it is broken out of dry ice to use every dose, so we don’t carryover doses from week to week.”
Thanks to a high interest and positive response to the availability of the vaccine, not a single dose has been wasted since North Shore Pharmacy began offering the vaccine more than a month ago.
“This is a national pandemic that has been a huge tragedy for a lot of people, but what it has shown, I think, is that independent pharmacies are still relevant and nimbler than the larger alternatives.
Beyer said there has also been a surprised response among some members of his community. For some vaccine patients, independents have been seen as out of the way places and those surprised reactions have been joined with questions as to why chains and larger health systems in the area weren’t moving as quickly.
“This is a national pandemic that has been a huge tragedy for a lot of people, but what it has shown, I think, is that independent pharmacies are still relevant and nimbler than the larger alternatives,” Beyer said. “And for things like this where it requires a lot of flexibility and a lot of quick, adaptive thinking, we do better than the chains hands down.”
Providing the vaccine at North Shore Pharmacy has created positive word of mouth and created a positive perception of the pharmacy in the community.
“It’s created a lot of positive word of mouth, just a lot of positive perception of what we do here,” Beyer said.
In the first two weeks most of the patients were among tier 1A, healthcare providers and first responders, and more recently the vast majority have been among the 65 and older crowd. As Beyer goes into week five, he expects patients to be among the 65 and older group.
Along with the success North Shore Pharmacy has had with delivering the vaccine, timing and a bit of luck played a role in making their location ideal for administering the shots.
“We got lucky in the sense that we were just finishing up a remodel and we had just opened up some space that had originally been walled off for the remodel,” Beyer said.
North Shore Pharmacy is now using that space, which had been intended for merchandising, as a waiting area for the 15-minute observation period after a vaccine is given.
Beyer said he has been more fortunate than others without as much space. Rather than needing to create a space, he only had to buy a few chairs.
On the whole Beyer stated that he felt lucky with his situation as he steps into independent ownership for the first time. He inherited a location and staff, and that staff has been great to work with.
His staff has been engaged with him and been willing to take on and learn new things.
“Those things are only successful if the staff is on board with it too,” Beyer said.
The search for an independent ownership opportunity took Beyer a few years. When he found what was the Thompsons Serv-U location, he found his goals and timeline aligned well with the former owner.
“It was a dream come true for me,” Beyer said.
“I think it’s just a lot about being a resource (community involvement), we have a local senior resource center and the manager there knows me on a first-name basis.”
This location also gave him to opportunity to practice pharmacy in the community he lived in and shortly after taking over the location, Beyer worked on making connections in the community.
“I think it’s just a lot about being a resource (community involvement), we have a local senior resource center and the manager there knows me on a first-name basis,” Beyer said.
North Shore Pharmacy now works with the senior resource center to answer questions or respond to unique requests on drug coverage among other things. And since delivering the vaccine they have also gotten to know the state health department.
When it comes to being a resource for the community, for Beyer it all comes down to making other local resources aware of what you can do and providing solutions because they are simple and local.