Reward Outweighs Workload for Pharmacist in Charge of COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

Jaime McCarrell, Pharm.D.

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) Jerry H. Hodge School of Pharmacy alumnus Jamie McCarrell, Pharm.D., recently made the move from teaching at his alma mater to hospital pharmacy management as the director of pharmacy for BSA Health System in Amarillo. This is a move that came with greater responsibility in the fight against COVID-19.

Like many others during this pandemic, McCarrell and members of his team have been forced to shift focus and adapt to changing circumstances.

“COVID-19 has changed everyone’s daily duties in health care,” said McCarrell. “For instance, my staff has been redistributed away from some special programs within the hospital into more acute roles such as expanded ICU coverage and COVID therapy management.”

For McCarrell specifically, administrative duties have shifted away from internal process improvement to allow for a greater focus on antibody therapies and vaccine administration.

 “My role, along with the rest of my pharmacy management team, has been to apply for and receive vaccine allocations from the state, store those vaccines when acquired and monitor and report daily vaccine doses given,” McCarrell shared. “For the Pfizer vaccine, it also meant preparing the vials for administration by diluting them according to manufacturer specifications.”

As vaccine administration has proven to be a multifaceted process, McCarrell’s role doesn’t end there.

“I work closely with our employee health team and other leaders in our hospital to prepare daily allocations for our on-site vaccine clinic and coordinate with our ambulatory sites for distributing vaccines to them as needed,” McCarrell said.

He also has a hand in staff education, resource allocation, the monitoring of hospital staff post vaccination, the management of emergency use authorization (EUA) medication protocol and he attends daily COVID incident command meetings where he reports on all vaccine acquisition, storage and use.  

The weight of such responsibility might seem daunting for some, but if you’re like McCarrell, whose favorite thing about his job is working as part of an interprofessional team whose primary focus is improving patient care and patient safety, the daily rewards outweigh the workload.

“It has been and continues to be a privilege to lead our community through the COVID-19 pandemic,” said McCarrell.

McCarrell is also hopefully optimistic about the long-term effects COVID-19 may have on the field of pharmacy.

“COVID-19 has illuminated some gaps in our health care system that can be filled by expanding pharmacist involvement,” shared McCarrell. “For instance, vaccine administration within health systems is done primarily through employee health. However, in our institution, we [pharmacists] were able to step in and help vaccinate employees with the influenza vaccine in an effort to prevent large gatherings at employee health during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

This is just one example of how COVID-19 has required an extensive amount of coordination between health care disciplines, and pharmacists have been an integral part of these conversations.

“We’ve seen pharmacists across the country help lead efforts to implement protocols for investigational and EUA medications that have a large impact on hospitalizations and mortality,” said McCrarrell. “The positive impact that we have had on outcomes within this pandemic will serve to carry our profession forward as the medication experts and as an invaluable member of the health care team.”  

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