POCATELLO — From Idaho to Alaska, Idaho State University student pharmacists are working on the front lines to administer COVID-19 vaccines, and more are ready to assist as more vaccine doses become available.
Because their training for administering immunizations begins in their first week of pharmacy school, student pharmacists require no additional training to administer vaccines, making them a valuable resource as health officials work to quickly administer vaccines.
Across the state, there are about 40 student pharmacists already administering COVID-19 vaccines in hospitals and health clinics. Twenty are at St. Alphonsus Medical centers across the Treasure Valley. Several more are working at Kootenai Medical Center in Coeur d’Alene and Mountain View Hospital in Idaho Falls.
Soon, student pharmacists will also provide assistance to nurses and physicians at St. Luke’s hospitals and facilities in the Treasure Valley, along with locations in Pocatello. In the next few days, student pharmacists will help administer the COVID-19 vaccine at Albertsons locations around Idaho as well.
Likewise, student pharmacists in Anchorage, Alaska, where ISU has had a pharmacy program in collaboration with the University of Alaska Anchorage for five years, are also helping deliver the vaccine to residents. More than 700 there have been vaccinated by ISU student pharmacists to date.
“The only challenge we are facing now is the availability of (the) vaccine,” says Dr. Kevin Cleveland, assistant dean and director of the office of experiential education. “Our students are experienced. We’re ready to go out into community pharmacies or other locations and administer vaccines. That’s going to be where we can help the most, by having students available to give shots, when we have them."
In fall 2020, ISUstudent pharmacists and nurses delivered flu vaccinations to nearly 1,000 people at two drive-up clinics in Meridian and Pocatello. With the support of the Idaho Immunization Coalition, Albertsons, St. Alphonsus and others, they’ve been preparing to help administer the COVID-19 vaccine since then.
Others in the ISU community are also working to ensure that current pharmacists and pharmacy technicians also have the skills they need. Dr. Brecon Powell, assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy is helping train pharmacy technicians and pharmacists in Southeast Idaho who need a refresher course on the administration of vaccines.
Students, faculty and staff from all of ISU’s departments and programs are also helping conduct mandatory COVID-19 screening at all campus locations. Health officials for the university implemented the screening for the safety of all faculty, staff and students who have a presence on any of ISU’s campuses, including Anchorage, Alaska.