Durham pharmacist believes local pharmacies are key to expediting COVID-19 vaccine rollout

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Most people in East Durham know Darius Russell by name.

"People trust us especially when you look at Black and brown communities," Russell said. "There's a lack of trust. Maybe even more that we have to build relationships."

Russell and his wife own the independent drug store on Angier Avenue that bears his name. He's also the pharmacist.

"You think about just how pharmacies help physicians give out flu and shingles shot," he said. "We're not trying to step on anyone's toes but I think we can be part of this as healthcare providers in the state, in this community here in Durham and in the country."

While Russell doesn't expect his supply of vaccines until March, other states have used places like this shop and Gurley's in downtown Durham to expedite the process.

"If we can be able to give the vaccine, I think we can help with the tremendous shortage we have going," he said.

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Dr. Delon Canterbury, who is a pharmacy consultant in Durham, said it does help that chains like Walgreens and CVS have access to the vaccine but "the bigger question is logistics."

He was a pharmacy manager for six years before opening GeriatRX, a personal pharmacist-lead consulting service that focuses not only on chronic medication management but also identifies the lack of support for parents that are caregivers.

Dr. Canterbury, who was on the state's first COVID-19 taskforce, said he can't imagine the logistics the state is dealing with to distribute the vaccine. He said pharmacies are hard-pressed to handle the Pfizer vaccine because of how it needs to be stored so they're waiting for Moderna doses.

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"It's frustrating from a provider's standpoint, a patient standpoint and from a healthcare standpoint," he said, who has been taking part in conversations with other local experts as they try and reassure the black community that the vaccine is safe.

"This needs to be a community, team-based effort," Dr. Canterbury said. "The history is there. The skepticism is there but we cannot conflate that with something that's being compared to a global pandemic. It's no longer about Black or white."

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