Number one: Hesston Pharmacy tops in the state for vaccinations

Chad Frey
The Kansan
Hesston Pharmacy is where manufacturers in Hesston turned for COVID-19 vaccination clinics — and the pharmacy was announced as the top pharmacy in the state for completed vaccinations this week.

Sandie Kueker's Hesston Pharmacy was one of the first pharmacies in the state to start giving COVID-19 vaccinations when the shots became available — first partnering with the county health department to get doses before a federal vaccination program for pharmacies opened up. 

The community jumped on board from the beginning — offering notes of support, encouragement and volunteering to help create clinics with the goal of brining the pandemic to an end. 

"It is so many volunteers. It makes you teary eyed to think about how amazing this community is," Kueker said. 

Retired and active nurses to help with shots, crossing guards for traffic control, city staff to put up signage. Everyone has pitched in. Kueker can't seem to mention, nor thank, all of them enough. 

She talks about those folks almost seemingly to to deflect some attention for her two pharmacies — Hesston Pharmacy and Harvey Drug of Newton — as it was announced this week that Hesston Pharmacy is number one in the state. 

The small pharmacy in a small town leads the state for the number of completed vaccinations given.

"A lot of hard work, honestly. We started as soon as they let us start signing up to be a vaccine provider," Kueker said. "We signed up to be both a state and federal pharmacy programs. ... It was hours of paperwork to get everything in place." 

That effort has helped Harvey County be one of the top counties in the region for the number of vaccinations given — 387.6 per 1,000 individuals.  

The pharmacy was averaging more 1,000 doses a week, in a city of 3,800 and county of 34,000 people. Again, one of the first to say yes when federal trays of vaccine became available. Each tray holds 1,170 doses. 

The pharmacy has given, as of April 16, 6,139 vaccinations. 

"I do want to boast that ... [they] are the highest pharmacy in the state," said Lynnette Redington, director of the Harvey County Health Department. "... Again, tt is not really a competition, we want everyone to get vaccinated"

When an email went out notifying pharmacies that three trays would be available for the state of Kansas, Hesston responded and received one. 

"We took our first tray at the end of February," Kueker said. "That was a huge clinic for 65 and overt. We just kept taking trays after that." 

And kept giving shots. 

"It has been a little crazy," Kueker said. "We have done all those doses, about 1,000 a week. It has been a wonderful experience. It feels good to do something to help our community to get out of this crisis and to the other side. ....The clinics are so fun, everyone is so hopeful that we are getting out of this."

Clinics have been at three main locations — the pharmacy  at 101 S. Man Street in Hesston, Harvey Drug in downtown Newton and King Park Shelter, 200 N. Ridge Road in Hesston. 

At the combined pharmacy locations about 30 shots can be given each day. The King Park shelter offers capability to up that hourly and daily rate for what Kueker calls "big clinics.' 

"That was huge, we had enough space we could vaccinate 60 people an hour. ... that made a huge difference," Kueker said. 

When manufacturers like Excel Industries and AGCO wanted clinics, the pharmacy stepped forward as well. 

Kueker was asked by federal pharmacy partners to give a presentation on how she and her crew rolled out vaccination clinics — which she did. 

She said during those presentations she realized how unique the community is — hearing often "we don't have that" when talking about tapping on volunteers, cooperation from the city and other cooperative efforts she said made every clinic possible. 

"This is really about our community," Kueker said. 

Sandie Kueker and the staff of Hesston Pharmacy have been performing more than 1,000 COVID-19 vaccinations a week. One of the first pharmacies in Kansas to start, they were announced as the top pharmacy in the state for vaccinations completed.