Saturday, June 25, 2022

NC governor visits Wilmington pharmacy

Gov. Roy Cooper recognizes trusted, community pharmacies that are getting North Carolinians vaccinated during tour at Wilmington’s Kings Pharmacy

During a tour of Kings Pharmacy, Gov. Roy Cooper speaks with owner Roy “Buck” Martin and an employee. (Port City Daily/Alexandria Sands Williams)

WILMINGTON — A small, independent pharmacy on the corner of South College Road earned a visit from an entourage of politicians and health officials Thursday.

Behind the counters of Kings Pharmacy, staff continued answering ringing phones and fulfilling orders through the drive-thru window as Gov. Roy Cooper entered the room alongside N.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Kody Kinsley.

Surrounded by shelves stocked with N95 masks, over-the-counter medication and bandages, the officials shook the hands of the local pharmacists and thanked them for their work getting Covid-19 shots in the arms of their customers. The business has dispersed around 2,000 Covid-19 vaccinations in over six months.

“Congratulations on such a successful business. I know how hard it is for independent pharmacists,” Cooper told owner Roy “Buck” Martin after walking through the store’s double doors.

“It certainly has its struggles and challenges, but we’re making the best of it and just trying to be here for the community,” Martin replied.

“At a time when they really need it,” Cooper said.

The governor took a tour of the pharmacy, which has served the community for three decades. Martin showed Cooper the “vaccination prep area” and the room where people get their shots.

The owners told Cooper many customers have come to get their vaccine due to word of mouth, by neighbors telling each other to go to Kings Pharmacy to get their Covid-19 shot. He said most customers who come for a shot know they want it already, but he often needs to offer peace of mind to the common question: “Am I gonna feel bad after?”

Gov. Roy Cooper thanks the Martins for their work dispersing Covid-19 vaccines. (Port City Daily/Alexandria Sands Williams)

Later in remarks, Cooper said research shows some people are not necessarily opposed to getting the Covid-19 vaccine but just haven’t made the decision.

“This is where trusted people in communities like pharmacists can make a difference, when they’re engaging with people that they engage with anyway — regular customers who come in for their medical treatment and their regular prescriptions,” Cooper said. “That conversation can be had to try to convince them that Covid vaccine and a booster is the right thing to do.”

Colorful lollipops on the table of the vaccine room caught the eye of Rep. Deb Butler, who asked if the business owners were seeing more children coming in for vaccinations.

“We were anticipating a much larger turnout of children,” Martin said, “but we haven’t seen as much as we thought we would.”

In North Carolina, 25% of children ages 5 to 11 have gotten vaccinated in the three months since they’ve become eligible. 

Vaccination rates rise the older the generation is. The senior population, above 75, is around 96% vaccinated as of Thursday. Cooper suggested this is a sign they know “getting vaccinated is the best way to keep them safe.” He said he wants to increase the statistics among the youth to protect students and keep them in the classroom. He added a “well-fitting” mask makes a difference in reducing the spread of the virus in schools.

Gov. Roy Cooper gives a brief speech inside Kings Pharmacy. (Port City Daily/Alexandria Sands Williams)

In remarks following the look-around, Cooper said he wanted to highlight the good work pharmacies are doing across the state.

“An independent pharmacy, like this one, that has developed trust with customers can make a real difference when people are trying to make decisions about vaccines,” Cooper said.

A Wilmington native, Kinsley stepped into his role last month to succeed outgoing health department leader Mandy Cohen. He said he learned earlier in the day his mother received her booster shot at Kings Pharmacy.

“Our pharmacies have been such key and critical partners for ensuring that vaccines are easy and everywhere,” Kinsley said. “And as we’ve worked hard to try to increase our vaccine rates in our state, it’s been because of pharmacists, as well as all our other providers coming together to make sure that their local communities are vaccinated.”

A Wilmington native, Health and Human Services Secretary Kody Kinsley said his mom got her booster shot at Kings Pharmacy. (Port City Daily/Alexandria Sands Williams)

Kinsley stressed vaccinations are the most important action one can take to fight Covid-19, along with wearing a “tight-fitting mask.” The governor noted the number of cases and hospitalizations in the state are trending downward.

“That’s good, but it’s still very high,” Cooper said. “And one thing we know is that you’re much more likely to be sick, hospitalized, go to the ICU, and even die if you have not been vaccinated and boosted. The science is overwhelming. And the good thing about it is that we have safe, effective, free vaccines that you can get in so many places across our state. And we still have a number of people who haven’t gotten it.”

A fourth of the adult population in North Carolina has not received a first shot of the vaccine. In New Hanover County, 66% of the population is vaccinated with at least one dose, below the state’s percentage.

Butler emphasized more than 320 New Hanover County residents have “not survived this pandemic.” She said the vaccine could have save some of them.

“I know the political divide that has challenged all of us,” Butler said, “but please don’t be one of those people that has this inordinate regret if something unthinkable should happen and you should get the disease or your family member and suffer terribly from it. It can’t be predicted.”

Butler, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo and New Hanover County Commissioner Rob Zapple thanked the governor for his science-based approach to leadership throughout the challenging past two years. Zapple gave a shoutout to the county’s pandemic operations department, which gives out free vaccinations and boosters. He thanked Kings Pharmacy, all the other independent pharmacies, as well as the Walgreens and CVS locations that have provided vaccines.

“By gosh, look what’s happening. We’re finally seeing some drop off in those numbers here. We’re not out of the woods yet by a longshot,” Zapple said. “But it’s not the time now to take your foot off the accelerator. Please, encourage people to go out and get the vaccination or the booster. That’s the best way that we will all find our way out of this.”

Gov. Cooper was also in the area to discuss offshore wind, which he said will boost the economy and help the environment. Brunswick County and multiple of its municipalities passed resolutions opposing wind turbines off the coast. Earlier in the day, Cooper attended the inaugural meeting of the N.C. Taskforce for Offshore Wind Economic Resource Strategies.

Kings Pharmacy offers vaccines on a walk-in basis Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. No appointment is necessary.


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Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands is a journalist covering New Hanover County and education. Before Port City Daily, she reported for the award-winning State Port Pilot in Southport. She graduated from UNC Charlotte and wrote for several Charlotte publications while there. When not writing, Williams is most likely in the gym, reading or spending time with her Golden Pyrenees. Reach her at alexandria@localdailymedia.com or on Twitter @alexsands_

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