Brooklyn Boro

Brooklyn pharmacist is ready and able to vaccinate kids for COVID-19

October 27, 2021 Raanan Geberer
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Next week, the Centers for Disease Controls is expected to OK COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 5 to 11 years old. Already, kid-size Pfizer COVID vaccines are being shipped to many states.

And when vaccinations for children are approved, medical and related professionals of all types will need to get ready. One group that already has experience giving injections to children consists of independent pharmacists, many of whom are members of the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York.

One Brooklyn pharmacist who is a member of the PSSNY, which has about 20,000 members, is Ambar Keluskar of Rossi Pharmacy in Ocean Hill. 

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Since the approval of COVID vaccines late last year, Keluskar was one of those pharmacists who administered them and did pop-up vaccination events throughout Brooklyn, reaching people who were not necessarily coming to the pharmacy, according to a spokesperson for the organization.

“Pharmacists are equipped and able to do immunizations and have been doing immunizations for children ages 4 and older since a really bad flu season a few years ago. As we press forward with such a large campaign, everyone will review the procedures,” Keluskar said.

While pharmacists often give immunizations in drugstores themselves, schools “would be a great place” to give them, he said. “We’re looking at synergistic partnerships with schools, community groups and others who could provide space.” 

As the vaccination surge continues, he added, many pharmacists have hired other professionals to help them give the injections, including nurses, physicians’ assistants, even doctors.

Keluskar describes his store as a small “hole-in the-wall” pharmacy, but adds, “We use our space effectively and have private immunization areas. When someone is scared of needles, we can give them the time they need to settle down.”

The Rossi Pharmacy in Ocean Hill. Photo courtesy of Ambar Keluskar

When the vaccines first came out, he said, it was really stressful for druggists: “You didn’t want a single dose to get wasted, even if it was something out of your control like syringe failure. You didn’t want to be on the news because your pharmacy had vaccine waste.”

The main vaccine that was a particular challenge was Pfizer, Keluskar said, which had to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius. But as more data came out, he added, “it allowed storage in original containers or a standard pharmacy-grade fridge. They also started shipping in smaller containers. Moderna and Johnson and Johnson were much easier to store.”

“We work in a neighborhood where there’s been a lot of vaccine hesitancy,” he commented, “but as the parents have been vaccinated, they feel a lot more confident, and they ask,` When can I bring my 10-year-old, my 8-year-old in?’”

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