Concordia pharmacy student Alicia Johnson preparing COVID-19 vaccinationConcordia pharmacy student Alicia Johnson preparing COVID-19 vaccination

Alicia Johnson has been on the front lines of vaccination since day one. Hear her first person account.

Vaccinating Wisconsinites: One pharmacy student’s firsthand account

Johnson, a fourth year Concordia University School of Pharmacy student, has been working to vaccinate the Wisconsin public since day one of operation.

According to Wisconsin Health News, the vaccination clinic is run by AMI Expeditionary Healthcare. They work in collaboration with the UW System, local public health departments, and others. Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services oversees this community-based clinic.

Concordia students were present from day one

Concordia students are involved with the vaccination effort there. Daniel Beck, senior operations manager at AMI, said they are working to get as many Wisconsinites vaccinated. Concordia University Wisconsin pharmacy student Alicia Johnson is one student who has been working at the clinic. “We’ve already engaged and have two pharmacy students that are coming from Concordia’s School of Pharmacy. One of those students has been engaged since our first day of operation. So far it’s been an absolutely fabulous partnership,” said Daniel Beck in the Wisconsin Health News article, “We could not be more impressed with the quality of students we’ve seen so far. Really looking forward to as we continue to grow the number of community-based vaccination clinics that we’ll be able to grow those partnerships and see even more students coming out.”

Hear from Alicia Johnson herself on what it’s like to work at the clinic and be a pharmacist during this historic time

What year of pharmacy training are you in? What is your role at the Rock County mass vaccination site? 

I am a fourth-year pharmacy student graduating from Concordia’s School of Pharmacy in May.  My main role at the Rock County site is to prepare the vaccines for administration and working alongside other healthcare professionals to administer the vaccines to members of the community.  I also act as a resource to provide education to patients about the vaccine (how it works, effectiveness, side effects and how to manage, etc.)


Administering vaccines is part of the job description for community pharmacists. How did you get involved with community vaccinating?  

I received my immunization certification in my second year of pharmacy school and have been administering vaccines ever since.  As for how I became involved with the Rock County vaccination clinic, that’s chalked up to good timing.  The site where I was scheduled to complete my rotation had to make some adjustments due to the the COVID-19 pandemic, so I didn’t end up there.  However, as luck would have it, another opportunity was presented to Dr. Theesfeld allowing for students to play a role in vaccinating the Rock County community.  I live in Rock County so when Dr. Theesfeld shared this opportunity with me, I was eager to be a part of it.    


Is this something you ever thought you’d be doing?

While I know that pharmacists can play a huge role in disaster relief, never would I have imagined that I would be part of the essential team working to combating a pandemic, but I am so glad to be a part of it.  I am honored to be part of such an amazing team of healthcare workers at the Rock County vaccination site! 


How do you feel about performing this kind of work?

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to make a difference in so many people’s lives and the fact that I am able to do so in my own community is an added benefit!  I am passionate about all that we are doing in Rock County to work towards regaining normalcy and living a life that isn’t controlled by COVID.  


What advice do you have for the community about getting vaccinated? 

I would highly recommend that the community get vaccinated! I understand that there are individuals that are hesitant to receive the vaccine due to its rapid development and to these people, I would highly encourage them to research the vaccine and the standards set in place for its development, ask questions, and develop an educated opinion on the risks versus benefits of being immunized.

Not only does getting the vaccine help to protect you, but you are also protecting those around you that may be at a higher risk.  I chose to get vaccinated to protect my loved ones with weakened immune systems, for the children that I interact with that are not eligible to receive the vaccine but are still exposed to the virus, for the individuals that I encounter on a daily basis as a healthcare worker, and finally to slow the spread of the virus.  In order to return to normalcy, we need to reach herd immunity and with every person that chooses to get vaccinated we become one step closer to reaching that goal.  

Describing the shot 

As for the shot itself, it is not painful but feels like a prick that lasts for approximately 2 seconds.  As with any vaccine, there are risks for side effects such as pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue, and chills but these symptoms only last for 24-48 hours.  After doing my own research, I found that the benefits of receiving the vaccine outweigh the risks of contracting the virus (respiratory complications, multi-organ failure due to cytokine storm, and death).  

Speaking from my experience at the Rock County vaccination clinic, the majority of individuals that receive the vaccine are ecstatic, appreciative, and liberated.  Such positive responses from the community generate a sense of hope that the end of the pandemic is near.  I take great pride in being a part of the vaccination efforts and am grateful that my career in pharmacy allows me to have an impact on the health of the individuals in my community!6.  Is working as a pharmacist what you thought it would be?  What most excites you about pharmacy? 

As cliché as it sounds, working as a pharmacist is all that I thought it would be and more! My reason for becoming a pharmacist was to use my knowledge and passion to improve the health and wellbeing of the individuals in the community and I am doing just that.  Pharmacy is such a rewarding career, and it is humbling to know that your patients trust you and look to you for advice.  This is what excites me most about pharmacy, building relationships with patients and providing them with the education and resources to improve their overall health.  


 Do you feel Concordia is preparing you for a career as a pharmacist?

Yes, Concordia has prepared me well for my future career as a pharmacist.  Not only have they provided me with a proper education, but they have also provided me with many opportunities that I would have never thought of being able to partake in and learn from.  The pharmacy staff at Concordia truly care about their students and I am thankful for all that they have done to prepare me for my future career as a pharmacist. 


What final words would you like to add about your experience in pharmacy school and working so far?

I really want to highlight that the AMI team at the Rocky County vaccination clinic is an outstanding group of nurses, EMTs, paramedics,  PAs, logisticians, and pharmacists! Every single healthcare professional has the best interest for the community in mind and are doing great things for the state of Wisconsin.  For this reason, I am grateful that Concordia has provided me with the opportunity to be a part of this interprofessional team


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