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Boston Public Health Commission

On February 2, 2021, the Boston Public Health Commission opened a mass COVID-19 vaccination site at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center at Roxbury Community College, not far from the MCPHS Boston campus. The site was initially open to Boston residents aged 75 and older and staffed largely by volunteers.

Among those volunteers have been six MCPHS faculty members and two students. Stacey Kokaram, Director of the Office of Public Health Preparedness, Boston Public Health Commission, said, “Opening the COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Reggie Lewis Center was critical to ensuring equitable access to the vaccine in our communities hit hardest by this pandemic. This took an all-hands on deck effort to get the clinic up and running. We could not have done it without our partnership with the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. We want to thank the volunteers for stepping up during this time.”

On February 12, 2021, Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice Yulia Murray, PharmD, BCPS and Professor of Pharmacy Practice Mary Amato, PharmD, MPH, BCPS, FCCP came on less than 24 hours’ notice to spend their day at the Reggie Lewis Center to help with the vaccination effort. The site needed pharmacists to help with the reconstitution (the thawing, mixing, and preparation) of deep-frozen Pfizer vaccines—a time-consuming and complicated process. Professors Murray and Amato got to work. Over the course of their shift, they reconstituted 212 doses, greatly speeding up the overall vaccination process and minimizing dose waste. Murray says their expertise helped relieve vaccinators’ anxiety about that portion of the work. “When I said I was a pharmacist,” says Murray, “I got applause from all the vaccinators.” She says, “Nurses, nurse practitioners, PAs, and physicians all came over and thanked me for being there. I felt like an essential part of a team, and they appreciated what we were there to do.”

But more important to Murray was the hope she helped give to the day’s steady stream of elderly Boston residents who had been waiting for the vaccine. She says that to help give patients the potential for positive outcomes and hope for the future was rewarding. “Seeing them be able to get the vaccine and how excited they were was incredible.... Patients who haven’t seen families, and hearing their stories about how they now might be able to—it was great.”

Assistant Professor Phung On, PharmD ‘13, BCPS also volunteered at the Reggie Lewis Center. Dr. On has been a volunteer with the Boston Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), which is part of the Boston Public Health Commission, since 2014. The Corps is a group of volunteer medical personnel who help with events like flu clinics and the Boston Marathon, the latter of which Dr. On has helped with several times.

Dr. On echoes Yulia Murray’s sentiments about the value placed on pharmacists’ role in the vaccination process. “They were very appreciative,” On says, that she and others were there to reconstitute vaccines. But On has plans to do more: Through the RMC, she plans to administer vaccine shots at the March 20 vaccination clinic at Charles River Community Health. And in April, she will be assisting with vaccine preparation at the Boston Housing Authority’s Hassan Apartments Complex, an opportunity she found through MCPHS.