Hesston Pharmacy/Harvey Drug leads state in vaccinations

Sandie and Joey Kueker discuss Harvey Drug/Hesston Pharmacy's vaccination efforts during a press conference with the Harvey County Health Department. The local pharmacy and its two locations rank top among state pharmacies for the number of vaccines distributed.

By Adam Strunk

No pharmacy in the state of Kansas has done more to vaccinate its community than Hesston Pharmacy/Harvey Drug.

The pharmacy, run by the Kueker family of Hesston, has provided more than 6,100 vaccines, the most of any pharmacy in the state of Kansas. For context, that’s about 1,000 fewer doses than the Harvey County Health Department has provided and nearly 1,000 more vaccines than the next closest pharmacy on the list.

“We just love our community,” owner Sandie Kueker said. “That’s why we do what we do. It’s what we’re called to do. It was our turn to step up and help our community. When it’s your turn, you step up and do what you can do.”

Harvey County ranks 10th in the state of Kansas with 387 out of 1,000 residents have received at least one vaccine.

Out of the thousands of chain pharmacies in Kansas, with many operating in populous cities, Kueker was asked how exactly her family-owned small pharmacy came out on top.

“Months ago, we decided that at Hesston Pharmacy and Harvey Drug, we were going to schedule with the state and fed,” she explained.

The pharmacy was already a COVID-19 testing location. It applied to provide vaccines distributed from the state and vaccines distributed from federal programs. It qualified for both.

Soon after, it got a request from the federal government.
“The feds came in the first week and they asked if there were any pharmacies that could accept a tray of 1,170 doses,” she said. “Initially, we thought we could move that tray for manufacturing.”

That was not the case.

“We found out after we said yes, we were going to be restricted to do 65 and above,” she said. So, the pharmacy turned to social media, as well as news organizations.

In two days, the pharmacy had all its slots filled for its large-scale clinic. So, it accepted another tray of doses. Then another.

“We were worried about how we’d have the manpower,” she said. “We’re literally a mom and pop and kid pharmacy.”
She owns and works the pharmacy with her husband, Adam. Son, Joey does some driving for the pharmacy and works as a technician when he’s not attending Hesston High School.

With a need for manpower, staff and the community stepped up.

Kueker said between regular hours and volunteering to provide vaccines, some staff members were working 60 hours a week when the pharmacy would run clinics.

Two part-time staff members, Rebecca Charlsen and Abbie Hoefling, are respiratory therapists and worked on COVID-19 wings of local hospitals. Kueker said for these staff members, they’d have rather seen the patients in the vaccine line than in the hospital.

“We’d just wake up and go to work and stay there till we couldn’t stay awake and come home,” she said. “Our whole team at the pharmacy, our staff gave up time with our families. They all volunteered to go extra.”

Other medical professionals signed up to give shots. Still other groups joined to help out, such as the Hesston National Honor Society and the Hesston and Newton Chambers of Commerce.

“It’s just been amazing,” she said. “The events are so positive.”

The pharmacy has put on clinics across the county, including at Newton High School.

“We’re going to keep vaccinating people as long as they get their vaccine,” she said.

Kueker had trouble remembering just how many clinics the pharmacy had done.
It will host another walk-in vaccination clinic on Friday at Hesston Pharmacy.

It also allows people to go into its pharmacy and request a vaccine. It can fill about 30 of these spots per day.

Kueker said the community has been appreciative of its efforts.

“We have a counter lined with thank you notes and words of encouragement from people,” she said. “It’s humbling.”