The COVID-19 vaccinator

Jamie Dalton MPS is a COVID-19 vaccinator
Jamie Dalton MPS

Jamie Dalton MPS was among the first group of Australian community pharmacists to join the national COVID-19 rollout in June in his own slice of ‘paradise’ – Mission Beach, Queensland.

How and where did you get your start in pharmacy?

I got in relatively late, starting my degree at the University of Sunderland, United Kingdom, in 2008 at 23. After time as a pharmacy assistant and then a dispensary technician I really loved the work, so decided to study pharmacy.

In what settings have you practised?

I’ve worked in both community and hospital pharmacy and honestly love the variation of both. In the UK, I worked as a hospital pharmacist and appreciated the insight I gained into the clinical side of pharmacy. At weekends I locummed in community pharmacy, a much different pace. Since moving to Australia 7 years ago, I chose to continue in community pharmacy. Living and working in rural Mission Beach for 6 years now, it definitely stands out as providing the greatest variety. Shortages in local doctors and servicing a range of customers, from young families to tourists and older locals and grey nomads, means  I never know what will happen.

What are some unusual critter  experiences you’ve had in ‘paradise’?

Living in tropical far North Queensland I’ve seen some of the most extreme bite reactions presenting in swelling and welts. I’ve also personally had wasp stings with my ear swelling in one instance. A local snake catcher presented  after a snake compressed around her head causing the blood vessels in her eyes to burst. We often see coral rash and jellyfish stings – not something I thought I’d be dealing with while studying pharmacy in the UK!

As one of the initial 56 pharmacies in Australia to start COVID-19 vaccination, what has been your experience so far?

It was a bit stressful for the team initially getting workflow right, reviewing pre-screening and not overbooking during busy times, but we reached the sweet spot in a few days. I have vaccinated more than 200 people [to press time], with a 50:50 mix of tourists and locals.

‘I’ve had lots of comments about how [COVID-19 vaccination at a pharmacy] is more relaxing for patients.’

My first vaccination appointments begin at 9 am so I organise my vaccination vials and get ready to spend time with my patients. Our team is amazing at handling customer queries and facilitating the vaccination process and appointments.     

I had one appointment amongst dispensing scripts, which probably took up around 45 minutes of my time, with an elderly gentleman who wanted to be fully confident in identifying any adverse effects following his vaccination. Overall, the response is very positive. Locals know I’ve been vaccinating for years, and tourists are pleasantly surprised to have an accessible location without travelling an hour to a state-run facility.

Since being a listed pharmacy we’ve received many calls from grey nomads booking ahead for a second vaccination, so from mid-July my calendar was booked through to September. I’ve had lots of comments about how it’s more relaxing for patients. They also experience my casual humour and out-of-key singing while waiting for the 15-minute post-vaccination observations.

Is this where you’d like to end up, or is it just a staging post in your career?

I’m 100% committed to Mission Beach. After a one-night holiday [then extended] stopover in 2009, we saw our ideal version of Australia – the rainforest, the reef, the laid-back lifestyle and the cassowaries. We emigrated in 2014, and after working 9 months in the big city saw a position for a pharmacist manger at the LifeLive Pharmacy Mission Beach. I couldn’t believe it when I got an interview with the founding partner of the LiveLive group.

The values and work ethic of the group were exactly what I was looking for. There is nowhere else I’d rather be. It’s an amazing location for our young family. Growing up in the UK is a stark contrast to the opportunities and lifestyle our boys have here and, lets face it, who doesn’t want to live in paradise?