First pharmacy to deliver Covid vaccinations in Hawke’s Bay

Photo: The Unichem Jeff Whittaker Pharmacy Covid-19 vaccination team - Mathew Brown Pharmacist, Jeff Whittaker Pharmacist, Janene Allason Registered Nurse Vaccinator, Luana Paovale Administrator.

On 3 August, Unichem Jeff Whittaker Pharmacy was the first pharmacy to provide a Covid vaccination in Hawke’s Bay.

Pharmacist Jeff Whittaker, who turns 81 this week, said "it was a very proud day - to be given the opportunity to vaccinate for Covid.”

“It would not have been possible without the help of pharmacist Paige Allen, working with the Hawkes Bay District Health Board, and guiding us through the preparation and delivery.”

About 50 pharmacies up and down the country are already offering the vaccinations, and that number is growing all the time.

Mr Whittaker said “a lot” of work was involved behind the scenes for a pharmacy to offer the vaccinations. “We’ve been working on this for seven months.”

Mr Whittaker said pharmacists, and pharmacies were moving with the times. “Rolling out the Covid vaccine is just an extension to what pharmacies do.”

“Offering a range of vaccination services means that people recognise you as a health professional.”

He said the pharmacy is hoping to vaccinate 100 people a day. “We’ve got two pharmacists, plus five nurses from the District Health Board who will be working in shifts, and three pharmacy staff members doing all the administrative tasks.”

According to Mr Whittaker, pharmacy has changed a lot over the years. “We made everything when I started 60 years ago, we compounded everything.  Now everything is bottled for us. It has taken away the art of pharmacy.”

Mr Whittaker says pharmacy is in his blood.  His great-grandfather, George Jeffery, purchased his pharmacy in 1870 in Roxburgh, on the banks of the Clutha River. His grandfather, William Jeffery, owned a Jeffery’s Pharmacy in Te Awamutu.

“When my great-grandfather started 160 years ago, he had access to cocaine and heroin as eye drops- and leeches."

In the future, he believes pharmacists will be performing a wider range of clinical services for people in the community.

Mr Whittaker has no plans to retire anytime soon.  "I enjoy working with people and the challenge of delivering new services," he said.