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Small Milwaukee pharmacy gets 34,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses into arms

WISN Milwaukee logo WISN Milwaukee 5 days ago
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From the early days of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, one small Milwaukee pharmacy chain has been delivering doses almost anywhere it could.

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"We've vaccinated people in barbershops. We've gone to big employers in the area and we've vaccinated people at their work. We've vaccinated people in grocery stores," Hayat Pharmacy Founder Hashim Zaibak said.

He credited his team's success with its ability to be mobile.

They administer vaccinations from the homes of the homebound to places and ranging from churches to bars.

"We have vaccinated close to 30,000 people," Zaibak told WISN 12.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services put that number at approximately 34,000.

"The beauty of being small is that you can move faster and you know your community better," Zaibak said.

Hayat's fight against COVID-19 began in the early days of pandemic, long before the vaccines.

Pharmacy staff distributed free face masks, gloves and hand sanitizers to people in some of Milwaukee's poorest neighborhoods.

Then, as COVID-19 cases soared, Hayat pivoted.

"We were one of the first sites in Milwaukee to be able to test for COVID-19," Zaibak said.

More than 28,000 COVID-19 tests later, the pharmacy chain made another pivot to vaccinations.

Zaibak pointed out that his clinical team started planning months before the first vaccine was authorized by the FDA.

The Hayat operation started small, administering doses in an office of its south side Milwaukee pharmacy.

As vaccine providers everywhere tried to create a system from scratch on a scale never before seen, some stumbled out of the gate.

The Wisconsin Center site was among those facing some early challenges.

Walgreen's encountered difficulties in scheduling appointments, forcing the pharmacy giant to change its online sign-up system.

But Hayat's small operation quickly outgrew its space.

"As demand grew, we really needed another solution," Hayat President Tamir Kaloti said.

The answer was found in the school that shares Hayat's building.

The pharmacy borrowed the gym and transformed it into a mass vaccination walk-in clinic.

Meanwhile, the mobile clinics continued as Hayat took on a new challenge: improving vaccine confidence.

Zaibak now often speaks to church groups or organizations before setting up a clinic to answer any questions people may have about the vaccine.

When asked about Hayat's operation, a Wisconsin DHS spokesperson told WISN 12, "We encourage our vaccine providers to do that kind of targeted outreach to meet Wisconsinites where they are, especially those who may have barriers to getting to a health care provider or mass vaccination clinic."

Pharmacist Dimmy Sokhol coordinates many of those Hayat mobile clinics.

"It's definitely a feeling that you are part of the community and you did something, maybe a little bit, but you did something for the community," she said.

Zaibak called the pharmacy's vaccination effort "the highlight of my career."

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