covid-19 vaccine

Giant Food Pharmacies Start to Offer COVID-19 Vaccines to Healthcare Workers

The D.C. Department of Health will notify those who are eligible and the vaccinations will be done by appointment only.

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Two D.C. pharmacies at Giant grocery stores -- the one at 8th and O in Northwest and the one on Alabama Avenue in Southeast -- are among the first places that aren't hospitals or clinics that will offer the Moderna vaccine against COVID-19.

You may not think of a grocery store as part of the public health infrastructure, but most of the big chains have pharmacies.

“We do offer many healthcare services and help people attain their health and wellness goals," Samir Balile, the clinical programs manager at Giant Food Pharmacies, said. “It’s an exciting time." 

In these days of the COVID-19 pandemic, those wellness goals include not contracting or spreading the virus.

But the vaccine is not available to the general public yet, so not just anyone can walk in and get a shot. 

“For right now it’s just healthcare providers here that work in the district,” Balile said. 

In fact, the D.C. Department of Health will notify those who are eligible and the vaccinations will be done by appointment only. Those appointments are already being made and kept, by people who work with vulnerable populations. 

Babu Stephen, for instance, didn't feel the needle. But he has been feeling the need to see that he and the elderly people he works with are safe. Even though he’s gotten the vaccine, he's not letting his guard down. 

"We'll have to be very cautious. We will wear the mask," Stephen said.

Jana is a woman who works with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities at D.C. facilities who are also medically vulnerable. She got a shot, too.

So far, it’s the best way to protect ourselves and the people we serve

Babu Stephen

“Let’s put an end to the COVID nightmare we’ve been living since March,” she said.  

The grocery stores will be using the Moderna vaccine, which doesn’t have the specialized storage requirements of the Pfizer vaccine, though it's still frozen.

Appointments are vital, since once the vaccine is thawed, it has to be administered within a certain time period.

Starting with this limited distribution will help ready stores for when the grouping of those eligible for the vaccine expands. It’s a two shot process and there will have to be follow up.

“With that tracking it also ensures that the patients complete their series,” Balile said. 

There’ll be space for a 30 minute post-vaccine observation to watch for side-effects, something that worries fewer health workers as more of them are vaccinated.

"So far, it’s the best way to protect ourselves and the people we serve," Stephen said.

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