COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution and the Power of Pharmacy Automation

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Vaccine or flu shot in injection needle. Doctor working with patient's arm. Physician or nurse giving vaccination and immunity to virus, influenza or HPV with syringe. Appointment with medical expert.

By Kevin Copsey, Business Unit Director at Euclid Medical Products 

The U.S. looks vastly different as we mark one year living with COVID-19. With more than 470,000 U.S. deaths and 27.8 million cases, the virus has impacted our daily lives, causing Americans across the country to adjust and adapt to survive. But there is hope – and it’s 95+% effective. 

Pharmacies now play a large role in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. On Feb. 11, 6,500 pharmacies nationwide began receiving weekly vaccine doses, shipped directly by the federal government. That number is expected to scale up to 40,000 retail pharmacies as distribution continues, aimed at addressing equity and availability concerns amongst the inoculation effort. The week of Feb. 14, the Biden administration announced that it would deliver 13.5 million vaccines, doubling the amount going to retail pharmacies. 

As independent retail pharmacies across the country now add COVID-19 vaccination and testing efforts to their day-to-day operations, many pharmacists are left wondering how they can do it all. By incorporating automation, such as multi-dose adherence pouch packaging machines, pharmacies will be able to successfully administer the vaccine and increase their revenue, all while making time for the patients that need it most. Take a systematic approach by weighing the best uses of automation to benefit your facility when it’s time to begin COVID-19 vaccination protocols. 

Enhance patient and pharmacist safety. 

Automated multi-dose adherence pouch packaging machines simplify the traditional process for the pharmacy by quickly pouch packaging medications all in one pack by day and time safely and securely. This automated solution easily complies with strict COVID-19 protocols. Multi-dose packaging machines allow for touch-free packaging – minimizing risk by reducing physical contact from the staff. 

Automated packaging also helps pharmacies and their patients adhere to social distancing guidelines. For patients, multi-dose adherence pouch packaging machines compile all of their medications in one place for the entire month, eliminating the need for multiple trips to the pharmacyeach month for separate prescription pickups. Pharmacies also benefit, as these machines eliminate the need for several pharmacists and technicians in a confined area at once, allowing more room for everyone  to maintain a distance of six feet apart. This will be crucial as the facility space shrinks to allow for a separate area to administer the vaccine. 

Improve operations and efficiency. 

Automation also boosts operational efficiency, ensuring a smooth workflow to increase output and profit amongst vaccine distribution. This technology with a small footprint packages at high speeds – some even up to 65 pouches a minute – freeing up time for those pharmacies who are still manually counting and packing medications. The Journal of the American Pharmacists Associationfurther proves automation’s abilities, stating that unit-of-use packaging alone saved more than 46.5 minutes per 100 prescriptions filled compared to typical count-and-pour dispensing. 

Your pharmacy staff will now need to add COVID-19 vaccine administration to their growing list of daily duties. Freeing up their schedule to support this added workflow will allow for more time to communicate with patients, maintain quality control, conduct compliance checks and more to keep your business running smoothly. Automation technology eliminates the need for excess labor on pill packaging and frees up time so your pharmacy team can get more patients in and out the door, efficiently.  

Grow your revenue. 

Finally, retail pharmacies can attract a minimum of 10 new patients per month with multi-dose packaging. This can equate up to an additional 120 new patients per year. COVID-19 has caused a strain on small pharmacies across the country – nearly 90% requested government aid in 2020 – and pharmacies need to get back on track if they’re going to compete with big name brands. Pharmacies that are offering multi-dose adherence pouch packaging have demonstrated that they can generate incremental revenues by filling more prescriptions in the process. 

Automation is a crucial piece of the puzzle to help your retail pharmacy be prepared for the nationwide rollout of the vaccine. As we’ve learned over this past year, when we work together we can stop the spread. With automation, your pharmacy can successfully administer the vaccine to help us get one step closer.  

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 About the Author 

Kevin Copsey serves as the business unit director for Euclid® Medical Products, a leading provider of pharmacy automation equipment with a focus on helping pharmacies, long-term care facilities and third-party re-packagers improve operations and overall patient health. Kevin leads operations, new product development, customer service and business development teams.  For more information, visit euclidmedicalproducts.com.

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