COVID-19: Volunteer-driven map helps track nationwide sanitizer, face mask retail stocks
As the COVID-19 public health crisis continues, Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS) volunteers have set up an interactive online map to help inform the public of face mask and hand sanitizer stock availability in community pharmacies.
“In the wake of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) outbreak, any community pharmacists who would like to indicate the availability of face masks [and sanitizers] in their premises, please PM [Private Message] us directly and we will mark it on this map,” said MPS representatives, in a Facebook posting dated 5 February 2020. “Hopefully this initiative will be helpful to the public and your clients.” [https://www.facebook.com/MalaysianPharmaceuticalSociety/posts/2807622495987898]
The map is also available on Where My Mask? (https://wheremymask.com), an independent website set up by pharmacist Goh Man Fye as a shareable alternative to the MPS Facebook posting.
Goh has also set up an online form at https://portal.orangerx.co/form/wheremymask for community pharmacists to send in updates on face mask and sanitizer availability.
According to Tan Zhi Shan Sujata, map creator and MPS council member, the map was originally created in early 2019 to study the distribution of community pharmacies through the country. At the time, he noted that while the MOH Pharmaceutical Services Programme had a publicly available list of Poison License A holders and their registered premises, the list’s programming was limited when it came to filtering and sorting the information. [https://www.mps.org.my/newsmaster.cfm?&menuid=37&action=view&retrieveid=7732]
“After that, [the map] was dormant. When the COVID-19 virus broke out and people were trying to get their hands on face masks, I thought it was a good time to revive the project to relay information regarding mask and sanitizer availability to the public,” said Tan, in an interview with MIMS Pharmacist. “The map shows most, if not all community pharmacies in Malaysia. The data is accurate up till early 2019 at the time of plotting.”
Each community pharmacy on the map is marked by colours indicating last reported stock status. Red pins indicate available face mask stocks, while yellow indicates no face masks, but possible sanitizer stocks. Blue pins indicate pharmacies with unknown stocks. Further detailed notes as submitted by community pharmacists are also included in the map’s pin information.
“Every time Where My Mask receives an update, it is sent to me, and I update the colours on the map and the information in the description,” said Tan. “Alternately, pharmacists can also PM (private message) the MPS Facebook page to share their updates; the information is also relayed to me. The data is regularly updated whenever feedback is received.”
Tan and his team expressed their hopes that more community pharmacies will come forward and update their status regardless of stock availability.
“This will definitely help their clients as well as themselves, as many members of the public have been reportedly unhappy—and some pharmacists allegedly have been scolded—when they find out that there is no stock after all the trouble taken to go to a pharmacy,” said Tan.