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AN UNASSUMING COMMUNITY

Ramesh Shankar
Wednesday, June 9, 2021, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country in early 2020, the pharmacist community in the country has been providing a yeoman’s service to the nation. There can be not even an iota of doubt that this unassuming community has been playing a crucial role in the country’s relentless fight against Covid-19 pandemic by making life-saving medicines and other necessary healthcare products like face-masks, face-shields, sanitisers, etc readily available to the ailing people. All over the country, more than 10 lakh chemists and druggists, which include pharmacists, medical shop owners and wholesalers/distributors, have been working day and night in the community set-up and in the vicinity of the hospitals to cater to the needs of the Covid-19 patients. Very often, they supply the medicines to the needy people even at their homes. Apart from dispensing medicines to the consumers, the community pharmacists have also been playing a very important role in providing the much needed counseling to the patients on how to follow the Covid protocols. In their selfless service to the nation, the pharmacists, their supporting staff and their family members are exposed to the coronavirus infection through mutual contacts. The extent of the pharmacist community’s sacrifice to the nation can be gauged from the fact that since March last year, more than 650 chemists and pharmacists have lost their lives due to the coronavirus infection. The pharmacists and their supporting staff are most vulnerable to infection as they closely interact with patients at the shop counters. Despite all the risks, the pharmacist community has untiringly been providing services to the suffering humanity of the country.  
But unfortunately, the pharmaceutical traders and community pharmacists in the country are an agitated lot today. They are agitated over the government’s refusal to include them in the priority list of Covid-19 vaccination drive. While the government accorded priority status to other frontline healthcare warriors like doctors, nurses, hospital staff and other essential workers, it conveniently ignored the pleas of the pharmacists in the country. The government should have taken into consideration the fact that dispensing and distribution of medicine is nothing less important than the duties of other frontline warriors. Like other frontline Covid-19 warriors, pharmacists and their supporting staff are also equally vulnerable to the infection as most often they are exposed to patients with positive cases of Covid-19 and also to the asymptomatic patients. If the pharmacists get infected by the virus, it will result in the closure of the medical shops and the situation will lead to non-availability of medicines to the people. So, there is merit in the pleas of the pharmacist community to include them in the priority list of Covid-19 vaccination. Several chemists associations in the country have been knocking at the doors of the government to include them in the priority list. The anger of the pharmacist community can be fathomed from the fact the All India Organization of Chemists and Druggists, a nationwide organization of around 10 lakh chemists across the country, has even threatened to join the lockdown to protect and save the lives of its members if the government continues its apathetic attitude towards their demand of including them in the priority list of Covid-19 vaccination drive. Given the risks involved in dispensing drugs during this pandemic, it is quite logical for the pharmacists to ask the government to take them also along with doctors, nurses, hospital staff and other health workers as frontline Covid-19 warriors. The pharmacists are an unassuming community in the country which rose to the occasion to fight against the once-in-a-century healthcare crisis. The government should not waste time in considering them as frontline Covid-19 warriors which will make them eligible to get priority for Covid-19 vaccination.

 

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