Busier Than Ever During Pandemic, the Center’s Pharmacy Strategized to Become One of L.A.’s First Distributors of Vaccine

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Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 4,200 people each month have been getting their prescriptions filled at the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s bustling pharmacy located on the ground floor of the Center’s McDonald/Wright Building.

On National Pharmacist Day (January 12), an occasion that recognizes and honors all pharmacists across the nation, Pharmacy Director Nicole Thibeau (pictured, below) and her 60-plus staff are in the middle of administering the Moderna vaccine to the Center’s frontline workers.

“It’s the first step towards returning to normalcy,” Thibeau says. “It’s been an honor and a privilege to be able to provide the vaccine to our staff, to know we were contributing to them being protected which protects our patients and the community as a whole.”

The Center received 400 vaccine doses in this first batch with Health Services, Security, and Facilities employees—namely, those who support the Center’s various health care sites—receiving the first doses beginning on December 29. They will be required to receive their second doses 28 days later for the vaccine to be fully effective.

The Center became one of the first clinics in Los Angeles to obtain the vaccine thanks to Associate Pharmacy Director Greg Bowles. As soon as it was announced that freezers would be needed to store the vaccine, Bowles quickly located the correct freezers to ensure the pharmacy was properly equipped and eligible.

“I encourage everyone to get the vaccine as soon as they are able to through whatever means they are able,” Thibeau says. ”It’s very safe and has had some of the largest and most diverse trials we’ve ever seen. It is going to protect those who receive it and those around them.”

Ever since the pandemic changed life in Los Angeles nearly 10 months ago, the pharmacy has been forced to reduce its hours despite an increase in the number of patients and in prescription demand after a majority of prescriptions was shifted to free delivery.

“Our pharmacy specializes in health care of the LGBT community,” Thibeau explains. “We carry the right drugs for our community and can talk to them about their meds and treatment in ways that maybe a regular pharmacy wouldn’t think of.”

The Center is one of the nation’s few Federally Qualified Health Centers with providers who specialize in primary care for LGBT people and those living with HIV. The pharmacy is open to the general public and accepts Medi-Cal, AIDS Drug Assistance Program, and most private insurance plans.

To amplify its support for COVID-19 vaccination, the Center will launch a social media campaign. Those who plan to receive the vaccine are encouraged to tag @lalgbtcenter on social media and use the hashtag #VDay.

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