by Sima Akbarpour, registered store manager and pharmacist in Cocoa, Fla.
05 January 2021
A Walgreens registered store manager and pharmacist shares her experience of getting the COVID-19 vaccine and her thoughts on being part of the solution to end the pandemic.
Pharmacist gets COVID-19 vaccine
Sima Akbarpour (left) receives the COVID-19 vaccine from Walgreens pharmacy technician Angelica Hill-Ferro during a recent clinic in Florida. 
 
Editor’s Note: Walgreens has instituted a policy that enables its pharmacists to get vaccinated as soon as possible. If there are excess doses remaining from local clinics at long-term care facilities, Walgreens pharmacists are among the first eligible to receive these doses, helping protect those on the front lines of providing vaccinations. Sima Akbarpour was among the first Walgreens pharmacists to benefit from this new policy.
 
Walgreens pharmacists have always been, and continue to be, on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. When it all began in March, I was managing a 24-hour pharmacy, and even when lockdowns took effect, our location was still open 24 hours. Even when doctors' offices were closed, pharmacies were open. For me, that really highlighted the importance of this profession.
 
And now, for us to be some of the first to be protected from COVID-19, and to be able to vaccinate our own pharmacy teams, it makes me feel like we're giving back to them for all of their hard work. Offering them the first step in getting protected as they continue to go into long-term care facilities and protect the most vulnerable is so rewarding. It just comes full circle. It really makes everyone feel like they’re part of the solution.

A few months into the pandemic, I took on a new role managing both the front end and the pharmacy. In the past few weeks, I’ve also been helping administer the COVID-19 vaccine during clinics at long-term care facilities in my district. I've done three clinics in the last week.
 Walgreens pharmacy team
One of my pharmacy technicians, Angelica Hill-Ferro, accompanied me to the clinics. She recently became a certified immunizer but hadn’t yet given her first vaccine. I thought about how incredible it was that her first one would be a COVID vaccine. As she was about to give her first shot, I told her to take a minute and let that sink in.
 
At the end of my first clinic, once we had vaccinated everyone on site, we found we had four doses left in a vial that was already punctured. I asked Angelica if she could give me my shot. Of course, she did a great job. I didn't have a sore arm. I didn't have any side effects.
 
Walgreens pharmacists are going to have such a huge influence on the general public getting vaccinated and getting protected. We have to help build confidence, and we have to tell that story as pharmacists and as frontline workers so people aren’t scared. There's a lot of misinformation out there that can be misleading. And I think, as pharmacists, once we vaccinate ourselves and we get our population protected, we're the ones who can help make people feel comfortable.
 
Before the clinics, I did a lot of research because I wanted to be able to answer questions for anyone who might have them. And I felt comfortable with the research. All I can really think about is that I know what COVID does. I see what COVID does. I've had close friends who’ve had the virus or who’ve lost family members to it. Of course, we don’t yet know the long-term effects of the vaccine, but I know the alternative is not as good.
 
What were my reasons for getting the shot? I felt it was my duty. Here I am vaccinating all these people, but if I don't believe in what I'm giving them, why am I even here? I wouldn’t give anything to someone that I wouldn't give to myself, my husband, my mom. Now that we’re able to vaccinate our teams and ourselves, I think our biggest responsibility as pharmacists is to be an advocate for that.
 
I recently ordered a photo-booth-type frame that we’ll keep in the store that says, “I got my COVID-19 vaccine.” So far, everyone has been asking to have their picture taken while getting their shot. Once we start giving the vaccine in stores, it will be a great way for people to get the word out on social media. It might also help someone feel more comfortable if they see a family member or friend get it whom they trust and care for. Or they’ll know they can ask that person questions and get the truth.
Sima with her mom
I haven't hugged my mom in 10 months. I have a 2-year-old daughter who has never been to Disney World – and we live in Orlando – and a 14-year-old son who has struggled with e-learning in his first year of high school. I've only received my first dose so far, and I'm eager to get back to life.
 
When I think about what I was feeling while getting the COVID-19 vaccine, it was pride, 100 percent. I was so proud because this is a part of pharmacy history. It's a part of American history that we found a vaccine and that pharmacists are delivering it. In hospitals, it’s pharmacists giving the vaccine. Everywhere, it's pharmacists giving the vaccine. And that's something to be proud of.