Vaccine clinic returns to Highland

By Mark Reynolds
Posted 3/2/22

During the Covid 19 pandemic, holistic pharmacist Dr. Neal Smoller, owner of the Village Apothecary in Woodstock, has visited all nine school districts in Ulster County multiple times to administer …

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Vaccine clinic returns to Highland


During the Covid 19 pandemic, holistic pharmacist Dr. Neal Smoller, owner of the Village Apothecary in Woodstock, has visited all nine school districts in Ulster County multiple times to administer vaccines. He has also been traveling throughout Dutchess County to provide vaccines and booster shots.

Dr. Smoller was back at the Highland Elementary School gym on February 16.

“Highland is one we keep coming back to because for some unique reason the community really finds us to be convenient and they come out in droves,” he said.

Although the attendance on that night was a little less than usual, Dr. Smoller called it an, “anomaly. Normally we are well over 100 doses every time we come, if not 150.”

Dr. Smoller administered vaccines to ages 5 and above.

“It’s mostly 5 to 11 and then the rest are boosters and we’re even seeing some adult first doses,” he said.

Dr. Smoller said for the 5-11 bracket he administers a Pfizer pediatric dose, “that has 10 micro-grams instead of 30, which is what the 12 and above get. We have four vaccines at any given time; there is Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer and pediatric Pfizer.” Smoller said that omicron, “kind of trounced us and the case load went higher than it’s ever been, especially in December and January when it hit the height.” He noted that Ulster County is on a downward trend like other places in New York, “which is great because it was a very short lived wave, but yes we got our butts kicked.”

Dr. Smoller estimated that between the two counties, he visits about 115 different locations every week. He does Covid testing in 7 of the 9 school districts in Ulster County and for 14 school districts in Dutchess county.

“On top of that, at night we are doing 1 or maybe 2 Covid vaccine clinics,” he said.

Dr. Smoller believes there is another wave coming, “but the vaccines, especially when boosted, make Covid a nothing burger for almost all of us. That’s great and we will be able to get back to normal but there will be times when we are going to have to adjust our lives for the surges that will come; it’s about riding waves.”

Dr. Smoller said theoretically we might have to deal with Covid variants for the rest of our lives.

“There is no rule that says this has to fizzle out. I want people to move on but I don’t want us to say that Covid is over because then that’s a false sense of security, especially the farther we get from a peak and the farther we get from boosters the less immunity and the less protection we have. So if we let our guard down and another wave comes, we could be in trouble,”

He posited a scenario: “Omicron has been falling and everybody is ready to roll back [but] just today we are now at the peak of Delta, which was unimaginable levels of Covid. So we’ve gone from oh my God to unimaginable and then people are saying let’s take the mask off and there are still 3,000 people a day dying. All these horrible things are going on but everybody’s given up because they don’t want to wear masks.”

Smoller rates KN95 and N95 as highly effective, “and even if people just wore surgical masks we’d be in a better situation than where we are.” He added that across the states this is an, “insane struggle that has been politicized and the concept that masks are burdensome, harmful to children or ineffective is all incorrect.”

Smoller pointed out that the United States has 5% of the world’s population and 15% of the deaths from Covid.

“Why do other countries, that may have a similar population as the EU [European Union] have death percentages that are less than ours?” he asked. “It’s because we’re not doing the basics. What I see moving forward is that Covid is not going anywhere. I just wish that people would make these decisions based on metrics instead of emotions.”

Smoller said the U.S. has 900,000 recorded deaths, “and then our excess deaths number is extremely high. Excess deaths is an average of how many people normally die in a given year, perhaps in car accidents, plane crashes or from terrorism, so at a million and a half a year we are well over what we normally are so what other factor could it be? Of course it’s Covid, whether it’s a direct result or secondarily.”

Smoller said vaccines have been readily available since April 2021, noting that these, “are the cleanest, safest, things, period.” He urged people to not become complacent about Covid and any possible variants, but instead they should prepare for the next surge that’s coming.

“There are plenty of experts without an ax to grind looking at this problem and telling us that while it feels like we’re moving toward the endgame, it doesn’t mean that it’s over and it doesn’t mean that everything goes back to normal; so live by the Boy Scout motto, Be Prepared.”

Smoller is thankful for the ongoing support that he has received from the chief executives of Ulster and Dutchess Counties, Pat Ryan and Marc Molinaro, respectively. In addition he said all of the school administrations, “have been a thrill to work with. Every Superintendent has been at these clinics to support the effort to keep their schools safe.

Highland School Superintendent Joel Freer said Dr. Smoller comes to Highland about every three weeks for testing and to administer the vaccine.

“I think we have good mitigation factors in place and we’ve followed all the protocols as they were put out by the health department, we’ve done the quarantining and we’ve done the testing,” he said.

Freer expects students will remain in school for the rest of this school year. He said all of the Superintendents in Ulster and Dutchess counties are grateful to Dr. Smoller for running the vaccine clinics.

“I know if they have Neal helping them, it runs much smoother,” Freer said. “He’s got a well oiled machine and gets people in and out, he makes them comfortable and answers their questions; that’s all we ever want, for people to be comfortable and safe.”