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Pharmacy School Hosts Vaccination Drive

Photo by Brady Lovig | Staff Photographer

Every week, students at the Drake College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences help members of their community overcome the pandemic and fulfill academic requirements by administering COVID-19 vaccinations at the Harkin Institute at Drake University.
Most of them are second-year pharmacy students who need practical experiences required by the pharmacy school, said Michelle Bottenberg, an associate professor of pharmacy practice at Drake. Bottenberg also said all pharmacy students are required to earn an immunization certification through the American Pharmacists Association, and she said the college has “built [vaccination practice] into our curriculum.”
“So now, you know, this stuff with COVID, we’re ready for it,” Bottenberg said. “Because we normally do it every fall with the flu shots.”
Second-year pharmacy student Molly Nelson said that she has spent 15 hours volunteering at the clinic in addition to required hours for academic credit.
“From this experience in coming and being here for 40-plus hours, I found out I love vaccinating, I love being able to actively interact with my patients, and be able to explain things that they are confused on and just bring some light to their life because I know so many people are scared right now, which is completely understandable,” Nelson said. “It’s just a great experience to be able to work on a skill that I was just new at and to be able to help the community out.”
Nelson said that she also worked one of the two vaccination days at the Boys and Girls Club on Drake’s campus. Bottenberg said that together, the two events—one on Feb. 13, the other on March 6—fully inoculated about 1000 educators and school faculty members.
The vaccination clinic at the Harkin Center is the result of a partnership between the College of Pharmacy, the Harkin Institute, the Hy-Vee Windsor Heights pharmacy and the Polk County Health Department, said Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice Nora Stelter.
The college provides student pharmacists and faculty supervisors, while Hy-Vee takes on more of the administrative tasks that come with running a vaccination clinic, Stelter said. For example, appointments at the Harkin Center are made through the vaccine portal on the Hy-Vee Pharmacy website.
“I think it’s a perfect example of a private-public partnership coming together in a time of need to serve our community,” Stelter said.
Hy-Vee Director of Public Relations Christina Gayman emphasized the value of the partnership.
“We’ve really appreciated what Drake has been able to contribute as far as how many students, and the location itself—being able to socially distance that many people and vaccinate that many people at one time is amazing,” Gayman said. “It’s something that you can’t even do inside a pharmacy location because of space.”
According to their website, the Harkin Center is open from 12 p.m to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Fridays.
“So, we work a lot with [student pharmacists] to make sure that they’re educated on their counseling and they’re really practicing those skills,” Bottenberg said. “We don’t want to just give a shot and then say, ‘Okay, go sit for fifteen minutes.’”
Bottenberg said that the Moderna vaccine is the only vaccine in use at the Harkin Center. A fact sheet provided to patients at the site states that doses of Moderna should be administered a month apart and lists both common side effects and symptoms of rare allergic reactions.
“And so we have every patient after they get their vaccine, they wait in the auditorium here and they’re monitored for fifteen minutes,” Bottenberg said. “If we have a patient that has a history of having a reaction to a vaccine or a component in the past, we make them wait thirty minutes.”
According to Bottenberg, the number of vaccinations that the clinic can perform each day depends on supply.
“We could do almost 200 every day that we’re here, but unfortunately, you know, we just don’t have enough vaccines,” Bottenberg said.
Gayman said that the greatest challenge facing local vaccination efforts is probably supply.
“I think that’s the general consensus across the board no matter who the administrator is…we can still vaccinate more people than how many doses we’re receiving week to week,” Gayman said. “And obviously the federal government has a plan to increase those—we hear it in our calls with the CDC every week that that number continues to increase, so it’s getting there, but that is probably still the greatest challenge.”
One section of wall in the Harkin Center is covered with Post-It notes of several different colors. Written on each note is something that someone was looking forward to after their vaccination. One reads, “I am anxious to get back to the YMCA,” another, “Finally meet my new classmates,” and a third, “I want to hug my kids and grandkids again!!”
“Everybody has somebody that they are getting it for, or something that they gave up, right, because we wanted to be safe,” Bottenburg said. “…And so I think that they feel like they’re taking that power back and they’re getting back to their lives. And that’s exciting.”


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