Pharmacies in Nova Scotia are preparing to begin administering COVID-19 vaccinations for children between the ages of five and 11.
Health Canada says it'll make a decision on the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for that age group in the next one to two weeks, possibly allowing some children to be at least partially vaccinated by Christmas.
"We've been given a heads up that we should start preparing, assuming the Health Canada approval is going to go ahead," Diane Harpell told CityNews Halifax. "Likely early December, maybe a little bit earlier than that, to make sure that we have the staff in place and the facilities in place and all the resources in place to get ready for vaccinating kids."
Harpell is a pharmacist at The Medicine Shoppe in Dartmouth as well as chair of the board for the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia.
At her pharmacy, she said management is ensuring they have enough staff available to handle an increase in vaccination appointments.
More than 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Nova Scotia as of Nov. 12, and Harpell said many workers in pharmacies — who have been working hard since the pandemic started — are likely starting to feel burnt out.
Therefore, ensuring there's an adequate number of employees available is important.
"Then talking about how far between appointments we want to have these set up for kids," Harpell said. "It might take a little bit longer to give these vaccines to kids than it has for adults and teenagers.
"Then also making sure we have the right supplies in place ... shorter needles if we need them, making sure that there's things we could possibly do or have on hand to distract kids if that's a concern."
While it depends on the pharmacy, she said pharmacies aren't making much profit off of administering vaccinations — and it's something that most pharmacies aren't doing for the money.
"I know for us in my pharmacy, we're making sure that we do this safely — that's number one," she said. "I don't look at this as a big profit-maker for my pharmacy because we want to make sure that we're taking the time.
"You'll have other pharmacies, of course, that are doing it a little bit faster. But even in those cases ... it's not a big profit-maker. Obviously, we're trying to do this at a loss, but I don't see this as a big business up-take for us."
However, she said one benefit to conducting vaccinations is that it helps spread the word about pharmacies in each community.
For instance, some people might not even know a certain pharmacy is in their community and be surprised about its professionalism and comfort level.
In other cases, some people might be discussing with a pharmacist about how they don't have a family doctor and end up learning that pharmacists can help fill out some of the prescriptions they require.
With more than 300 pharmacies across Nova Scotia, Harpell said she's happy to hear Premier Tim Houston and other people recognize the hard work that pharmacies are doing to help vaccine people in the province.