ANN ARBOR, Mich. – With flu season starting, Ann Arbor Pharmacy pharmacist and owner Ziad Ghamraoui is worried about a double whammy this flu season.
Located on the city’s southeast side, Ann Arbor Pharmacy has stayed open to the community since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and has been fine-tuning its safety precautions over the past months.
“We started off using the CDC guidelines as a starting point,” said Ghamraoui, noting that the pharmacy has adapted as CDC guidelines change.
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When the coronavirus pandemic began, the pharmacy adopted strict safety measures to keep its personnel, their families and customers safe.
In addition to frequently sanitizing common surfaces, personnel would mask-up and give each other health screenings at the beginning of every shift -- something they still do.
“We pushed for strict curbside or delivery to homes and offices, and mail out,” said Ghamraoui.
The pharmacy took a “don’t come in, we’ll come to you” approach to keep its clients safe.
Ghamraoui said front-of-store sales suffered because of the safety policies but the company put ethics first.
To further reduce possible exposure or contamination, Ann Arbor Pharmacy also froze its medical waste take-back program.
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Additionally, the pharmacy and apothecary also had difficulty getting certain supplies and medications. Vitamins and supplements, like Zinc, vitamins C and D, Emergen-C and other immune boosters were also difficult to stock. Painkillers including Tylenol and generic brands were in short supply, so it had to go on supplier waitlists.
Ann Arbor Pharmacy also restricted access to medications made with hydroxychloroquine, a drug studied as a possible treatment for the coronavirus. Ghamraoui said that medications with the drug were only given to clients with ailments like Lupus or different forms of arthritis due to a dramatically shortened supply.
He said his business was on waitlists for medications, gloves, PPE and alcohol, so it could make its own hand sanitizer. The reduction in supply, as well as increases in supplier prices, forced the business to sell some items at face value to make sure community members could get what they needed.
As Ann Arbor Pharmacy approaches its two-year anniversary, Ghamraoui said that he is very thankful for the community’s support. The pharmacy’s safety and sanitation policies, which are still strictly implemented, have received a lot of online attention and praise from customers.
Personnel have also participated in flu clinics around Washtenaw County. According to Ghamraoui, more community members are seeking out flu shots this year which keeps the pharmacy’s vaccination chair busy.
“We have to keep our community healthy,” he said. " I personally am very afraid because we don’t want a double whammy. We don’t want the flu. We don’t want COVID, and the flu at the same time overwhelming our health system."
Ghamraoui said that he loves the Ann Arbor community and wants everyone to get their flu shots, wear their masks and take precautions to stay safe. He also owns pharmacies in Saline and Milan.
“I cannot repeat this enough to the community; ‘Everybody, do your part. Be responsible.’”
Ann Arbor Pharmacy is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Saturdays and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
Visit the pharmacy at 2418 E. Stadium Blvd.