By ARDEN BASTIA Suburban Pharmacy, located on Pawtucket Avenue in the Norwood neighborhood, may be the last independent pharmacy in Warwick, but it is now one of only two independent pharmacies in the state allowed to administer the COVID-19 vaccine.
Suburban Pharmacy, located on Pawtucket Avenue in the Norwood neighborhood, may be the last independent pharmacy in Warwick, but it is now one of only two independent pharmacies in the state allowed to administer the COVID-19 vaccine.
Suburban Pharmacy hosted its first vaccine clinic on Wednesday, March 31, and is offering a second on Thursday, April 1. All the appointments have been spoken for, and Nicholas Shanos, RPh, owner and pharmacist, said registration filled up fast. When the Department of Health released new vaccine appointments last week, Shanos said appointments filled up in about 30 minutes.
The pharmacy is distributing 100 doses of the Moderna vaccine during this week’s clinics, and will be offering 300 doses of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine next week.
Suburban Pharmacy is following eligibility requirements set by the state, offering the vaccine to people aged 60 and over, as well as people 18 and over with one or more underlying health conditions. Appointments can be made at www.vaccinateri.org.
Shanos has owned Suburban Pharmacy since graduating from URI’s pharmacy program in 1986. Shanos took over for his parents who opened the business in 1961.
In an interview on Tuesday, Shanos explained he’d worked alongside the Department of Health “months ago” to coordinate a clinic at his pharmacy. “They’ve worked very, very hard to get us to this point.”
“The nice thing about the whole process is that it seems like now that they’ve opened it up to more localized areas, we’ve got a huge outcry,” Shanos said. “From the neighborhood, there are a lot of people that have to walk, and there’s a lot of people that don’t have computers or cell phones. So we’re signing them up and helping them through that process. And if there’s any extra doses at the end of the clinic, we have a list of people that we will call than can get it here.”
Shanos said Suburban Pharmacy is now “permanently on the list” as an authorized vaccine site and “will be vaccinating as long as there is a vaccine available.”
After these first few clinics, Shanos said the operation will be moving down the road to Norwood Baptist Church where there is more space to “vaccinate more people in less time.”
At other vaccine clinics, like the ones held at Warwick Veterans Middle School, EMTs and other medical professionals have been on staff in the event that anyone has an adverse reaction to the vaccine.
At the Suburban Pharmacy clinics, Shanos explained, pharmacists will be the only ones on staff. “Pharmacists are licensed to vaccinate. There are certain polling questions that we ask in order to mitigate the risk of anaphylactic shock. And we have EpiPens, and there’s also 911.”
The day of the clinics, Shanos and another pharmacist will be on staff. “One of us is going to be the pharmacist on staff and the other is going to be vaccinating.”
Should they need extra help, Shanos said their pharmacy intern, Melissa Stewart, will assist.
Additionally, Shanos said local leaders like Councilman Jeremy Rix and Sen. Kendra Anderson have been “incredibly helpful” organizing volunteers.
“The neighborhood has really pulled together. We have volunteers for crowd control outside, and inside as well. We have a design for flow. We’re going to have people waiting in their cars until the call, just to mitigate the amount of people that are physically in the store,” he said. “And we’re going to be doing vaccines every six minutes on a tight schedule. It’s going to go great.”
“This is what it’s all about. I’ve grown up in this store. I lived in Norwood, I’ve gone to Norwood Elementary School, Aldrich Junior High School, Pilgrim High School, and URI. I’m definitely rooted in this neighborhood. And people are just elated that they’re able to come here and get a vaccine from somebody they trusted and watch grow up their entire life. It’s been very exciting. And It’s a really, really great feeling, no doubt about it,” Shanos said of the community response.
Shanos says Suburban’s secret to surviving this long is trust.
“Trust and serving the community,” he said. “People really enjoy coming here. They can ask us things about their health, and it’s just great. It’s the trust and the customer service, absolutely.”