coronavirus vaccine

Pharmacist Perseveres Vaccinating Thousands of Seniors Despite COVID Claiming Grandparents

"This cause became so much larger than myself. I had to put myself together to keep going, keep going," Payal said.

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A pharmacist who took on the challenge of overseeing the vaccinations of literally thousands of seniors at hundreds of long-term care facilities persevered, even after losing her own grandparents to COVID-19.

Working mother of two Payal Patel was managing the pharmacy at the CVS in Sylmar.

"I just wanted to help people," Patel said.

When the pandemic hit, she became one of the frontline workers overseeing the vaccination of thousands of seniors in hundreds of long-term care facilities.

"She is so passionate about people and wanting to do more for others," her boss and mentor, Sneha Patel, said. They are not related.

Helping seniors especially appealed to Payal, as close as she remained to her grandparents.

"I know that what I was going to do would impact so many people," she said.

"My grandma, my grandpa, every time I saw them, they made me smile. I mean anything, we used to joke so much."

President Joe Biden condemned the news that both Texas and Mississippi were ending their mask mandates and reopening as officials try to contain new strains of the coronavirus. “We are on the cusp of fundamentally changing the nature of this disease… and the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime, everything is fine, take off your masks,” Biden said. “It still matters.”

Payal was working long hours in the midst of the worsening COVID surge, gearing up for her new assignment, when COVID claimed the life of Natverbhai, her mother's 93-year-old father.

"It was, it was a very deep loss to me," she said.

After Natverbhai's memorial, Payal returned to the fight against COVID.

"She asked me, 'What should I do? I want to keep working. I want to help people. I just need to take a little time off,'" her boss said.

Payal's persevering attitude meant she was not giving up.

"This cause became so much larger than myself. I had to put myself together to keep going, keep going," Payal said.

But COVID was not done with her family, afflicting her father's 89-year-old mother Santa Ben while she was recovering from a surgery. COVID again amplified the pain of loved ones by keeping them from her bedside, except virtually through Zoom, praying aloud.

"I think it was like eight hours we saw her breathe and take her last breath," Payal said,

It was almost more than Payal could bear, but she knew what she could do to help other families avoid the scourge of COVID.  She joined her team at a care facility.

All these senior citizens getting vaccines just made me think this is somebody's grandpa, this is somebody's grandma. They're going to be able to help their parents. They were just so delighted to see us there, you know. It just made the purpose so real.

Payal Patel

Now, the priority program under the Federal Pharmacy Partnership to vaccinate the care facilities is almost complete.  

Payal will focus next on in-store vaccination of the newly-opening tiers.

"She is just so passionate about people and wanting to do more for others," her boss said.

"Just live life and give whatever you can. Because the moment might not come again. COVID should not determine how we live our lives. It just needs to go," Payal said.

When Could I Get the Vaccine?

Answer the questions to calculate your risk profile and see where you fall in your county's and state's vaccine lineup. This estimate is based on a combination of vaccine rollout recommendations from the CDC and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

For a more detailed breakdown of who is included in each priority group, see this methodology.
Source: the Vaccine Allocation Planner for COVID-19 by Ariadne Labs and the Surgo Foundation
Interactive by Amy O’Kruk/NBC

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