Small pharmacies eager to play larger role COVID-19 vaccine rollout

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. – Small, independent pharmacies, like the Hazel Green Pharmacy, have been giving out vaccine doses which the larger chains have yet to do on a large scale. Larger pharmacy chains are also facing backlash for their pace in administering the vaccine to nursing homes.

“Independent pharmacies have been proactive. That is the entire reason independent pharmacies, outside of clinics and hospitals are the only ones facilitating and administering this vaccine,” said Jeremy Cates, a technician at Hazel Green Pharmacy.

Cates says each week by Wednesday they are typically out of their vaccine supply.

“We’ve actually received in total, 400 doses. Our initial vaccination order was around 200 doses. We’ve been ordering every single week. Our orders have not increased in volume,” said Cates.

Hazel Green Pharmacy asks for 1,000 doses a week. Which is the max they could get and typically ADPH gives them only 200 doses. So if the pharmacy suddenly only asked for what they expected, they could miss a week where 300 happens to be available.

However there’s a bigger problem. The recent winter weather appears to have delayed several orders.

“It’s been just over a week since we got an actual vaccine order. Even though our orders have been approved and submitted,” said Cates.

The pharmacy doesn’t expect to get a double order to make up for delays either. Which is unfortunate for people waiting in line with appointments. Second dose Moderna patients will get the next order when it arrives. All of this is happening as the phone lines jam with calls.

“We have a good response system. We just tell them, ‘hey work with us,’ cooperate with us. We’ll be glad to get you on our list,” said Cates.

Hazel Green Pharmacy is not adding to their waitlist until more vaccine comes in. In the meantime, small pharmacies are eager for a single-dose vaccine that doesn’t require major cold storage. Such as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine awaiting FDA approval.

“It’s hard to meet the requirements of a Pfizer or Moderna. Although we do have it (the requirements), a Johnson & Johnson vaccine would be a lot easier for us to handle,” said Cates.

Several smaller pharmacies have expressed disappointment with their roles during the vaccine rollout. They feel they could be more helpful but they have not been given the chance.

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