Suzanne Prieur understood the importance of getting a jab in the arm to be protected from COVID-19. She told family and friends to go and get the vaccine as soon as it was available. And they did as they were told.
But she couldn’t follow her own advice.
Instead, she shut herself away in her home in Clearwater and waited. She wanted to be safe. But she worried just as much about the lingering effects on her lungs from a childhood illness and her allergies. Would she have a bad reaction to the vaccine? Could she trust it?
She didn’t see a way out even as she knew the Delta variant of COVID-19 was on the rise.
“I didn’t want to be around people,” Prieur says. “I’m watching the numbers climb and climb. No matter where I turned, I was scared.”
DeliveRxd Pharmacy in Hillsborough County and a long-time friend in Arizona turned out to be her lifeline to a COVID-19 vaccine. Her friend, who also is a physician with knowledge of infectious diseases, spent months “gently” talking her through the agony of knowing what to do but not being able to make a leap of faith. The Pinellas County Health Department’s website led her to the pharmacy.
Two weeks ago, a technician from DeliverRxd Pharmacy came to Prieur’s home in Clearwater.
“I did it on my porch with fans blazing,” she says. “It was marvelous.”
She is now fully vaccinated with a second shot again delivered at home this week.
DeliverRxd Pharmacy is a family-owned, independent pharmacy based at 4104 W. Linebaugh Ave., in Hillsborough. The pharmacy recently partnered with the Pinellas and Hillsborough health departments for a free home delivery option on COVID vaccines. The program began in late July.
As word has gotten out, pharmacy owner Will Parker, says, “The phones just started ringing off the hook.”
As of last week, Parker said the pharmacy had logged about 250 home deliveries.
In an email, Kevin Watler, spokesman for the Hillsborough County Health Department, estimated another 300 shots will be delivered in the next week or so. Pinellas and Hillsborough provide the free vaccines, and DeliverRxd manages the free home delivery program, according to Watler’s email.
In the past, Watler explained that third-party contractors helped vaccinate homebound or bedridden people.
However, DeliveRxd’s program expanded to include anyone who feels home delivery is the best choice for them. The pharmacy already provides free home delivery of prescriptions for its clients. “It was another extension (of services) to us,” Parker says. “It’s a pandemic of the unvaccinated, and a wake-up call to a lot of people. There is a surge of people wanting to be vaccinated.”
The numbers continue to show surge in COVID
County data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows Pinellas and Hillsborough experiencing significant increases in new COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions, and Intensive Care Unit beds that are filling up. The federal agency’s data looks at 7-day averages from January 2020 to the current date.
As of Aug. 12 new COVID cases in Pinellas rose by more than 23 percent; hospital admissions by 26 percent; and ICU patients by nearly 8 percent. Hillsborough’s new cases climbed by nearly 20 percent; hospital admissions by 26 percent; and ICU patients by 6 percent.
The data also shows as of Aug. 13 about 51.5 percent of Pinellas’ population is fully vaccinated. Hillsborough lags with about 45 percent fully vaccinated.
A recent survey by Kaiser Family Foundation found that 17 percent of unvaccinated people would be more likely to get the vaccine if a mobile clinic visited their neighborhood. Other reasons for hesitancy include a wait-and-see period until the Federal Drug Administration gives final approval to the vaccines and fear of reaction to the vaccines.
Some people simply have no way to travel to a vaccination site due to existing health reasons. But others also worry about issues such as social distancing especially at indoor vaccination sites, says Parker. “They want to make sure they don’t get exposed. They are scared to do it in public.”
Initially, the pharmacy relied on a technician and two nurses to deliver the vaccinations. Parker plans to temporarily hire a second technician and six additional nurses.
As the program grows, Parker could add home delivery in Pasco, Polk, and Manatee counties.
Setting an example for others
Prieur is thankful for finding a solution to her dilemma. She hopes more people will follow her path.
“A huge segment of people like me want to get this,” Prieur says. “The county doesn’t have the resources to go out and get everybody.”
For Prieur, it was months of researching and listening to clear-headed advice.
“There were so many factors I had to wrestle with,” says Prieur. She is a self-described health nut and a vegetarian with skeptical views of Western medicine.
She also confronted a slew of misinformation on social media. She delved into the muck and mire of disinformation, tracing so-called “facts’’ back to their rumored beginnings. All along the way, her Arizona friend guided and nudged her toward the vaccine.
Her decision to get the vaccine is a relief, Prieur says, and an affirmation of how being open-minded can lead to good outcomes.
“Your circumstances change. Information changes,” she says. “You have to be willing to inspect and evaluate changes as they come.”
For an appointment, call DeliveRxd Pharmacy at 813-932-6266.
For more information, visit the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County or in Pinellas County, depending on where you live. Or visit the DeliveRxD Pharmacy website.