Tarrytown Pharmacy seeks to vaccinate vulnerable groups who 'fly under the radar'

Photo of a woman's torso and hand holding a vile of vaccine
Pharmacist Ellie Studdard holds a vial of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)

Pharmacist Ellie Studdard holds a vial of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)

Austin’s Tarrytown Pharmacy is focused on getting COVID-19 vaccines to a population they say have been overlooked in Texas’ distribution effort—people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. At a drive-thru clinic at Tarrytown Expocare in North Austin on March 9, pharmacy staff administered the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine to around 500 disabled individuals and their caregivers, most of whom live in long-term care facilities in and around the Austin area. Throughout March, the pharmacy aims to vaccinate around 20,000 disabled Texans at 37 locations throughout the state.

“They’re a specific population of patients that are really vulnerable, and they’ve been missed for vaccination efforts by the initial vaccines back in December and January,” said Ellie Studdard, a pharmacist at Tarrytown Pharmacy.

As long-term care facility residents, these patients qualified to receive a vaccine as part of Phase 1A as early as December. But according to Studdard, nursing homes and elder assisted-living facilities were the care facilities that received the most targeted vaccination efforts. Tarrytown Pharmacy’s staff was alert to this disparity, she said, having run flu shot clinics for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in previous years.

“Unfortunately, this is not a new thing for them. They're a population here in the state of Texas that have always been missed out on opportunities,” Studdard said. “Their needs often just fly under the radar, and they often don’t get the care they deserve or need.”

Since news first broke in late 2020 that the Pfizer vaccine was approaching approval by the Food and Drug Administration, Tarrytown Pharmacy took steps to ensure they would be among the providers of the vaccine. Tarrytown’s Pharmacist-in-Charge Rannon Ching purchased an ultra-low freezer, a required piece of equipment to store the Pfizer vaccine for extended periods. As an independent pharmacy, Ching said he was confident Tarrytown Pharmacy could quickly identify overlooked community members if they were given allocations by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

“We just care a lot about our community,” Ching told Community Impact Newspaper in December. “A lot of the people that are overlooked are the small guys like us, like our community, our patients.”

Tarrytown Pharmacy has yet to make use of its ultra-low freezer; it has only received the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots, which have less stringent storage requirements. However, Ching’s mission to vaccinate overlooked populations is ongoing.
By Olivia Aldridge
Olivia is the reporter for Community Impact's Central Austin edition. A graduate of Presbyterian College in upstate South Carolina, Olivia was a reporter and producer at South Carolina Public Radio before joining Community Impact in Austin.


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