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New Hampshire Motor Speedway

In February 2021, the state of New Hampshire was made aware that it would receive a huge supply of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines to distribute to its eligible population. The state set an ambitious goal: over three days administer the vaccine to 11,400 people. In just over two weeks, a massive vaccination event was put together and held in early March at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.

The site needed pharmacists to draw up the vaccines—and a group of four women from the MCPHS School of Pharmacy – Worcester/Manchester stepped up to help. Professor of Pharmacy Practice Kris Willett, PharmD, FASHP; Professor and Vice Chair of Department of Pharmacy Practice Cheryl Abel, PharmD; Professor of Pharmacy Practice Cheryl Durand, PharmD; and Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice Amanda Morrill, PharmD, BCPS all volunteered on Saturday, March 6, 2021, from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m.

The MCPHS crew were part of what they called “The Pharmacy,” located inside the Speedway's officials’ building. There a group of 10 pharmacists drew up vaccines—during a six-hour shift, the 10 pharmacists could draw up 3,000 doses. Runners would then come get the vaccines and bring them out to the administration sites, which were outside stations where patients could receive the shots right in their own cars. All day, the site was filled with six rows of cars, each, three cars deep. Vaccinators could serve up to four people per car. Busy event. “It was incredible, the speed at which they were vaccinating people,” said Dr. Willett.

Despite the day’s freezing cold, the event was a very upbeat one. Cheryl Abel's husband also volunteered, as a non-medical worker to help usher traffic, and he said the vast majority of patients seemed excited and grateful to be there, and his fellow volunteers were cheery. Says, Dr. Abel, “He had an amazing time. He was out in the cold, but he said everyone volunteering was so excited.” She adds, “There was just this feeling of, ‘We’re so excited to be a part of this.’”

Cheryl Durand says, “It was the same way inside our pharmacy area. Everyone was really excited and ready to help and do their part. We were having a good time in there!” And Dr. Durand had a special visitor in The Pharmacy: New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu. “The Governor was interested.... He wanted to see how we were drawing up the vaccine,” she says. So she volunteered to show him. The Governor’s official social media accounts ended up sharing a picture of Dr. Durand showing him how the process works.

The Governor wasn’t the only one grateful for the help of these four MCPHS faculty members. Dr. Willett says she was caught off guard by the amount of gratitude she experienced online after sharing some of the experience. “The amount of support and thank yous on social media...I wasn’t looking for that, but it was just nice,” says Dr. Willett. Adds Dr. Morrill, “We saw an opportunity to help, and everyone jumped on it. It’s why we went into healthcare.”