JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – As President Joe Biden’s administration works with national pharmacy chains to increase the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, local pharmacies hope to receive doses to immunize the Tri-Cities region.
Some local pharmacies have already begun the vaccine distribution, but others tell News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that they are still waiting for doses.
“We’re just waiting right now, we’ve done everything on our end, so we’re just waiting until either the Tennessee Department of Health or CPESN says ‘okay, I’ve got it, we’re ready, we’re sending it out to you,’ so, we’re just on standby,” explained Kristen Archibald, Director of Clinical Services at West Towne Pharmacy and Princeton Drug in Johnson City.
Both pharmacies have applied for their vaccine allotment through Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network (CPESN), and are still waiting for those doses to arrive.
“We honestly, we can’t wait to do our part here in this pandemic. I can’t wait for us to get it and we can start getting people vaccinated, and hopefully we can get back to normal life at some point, so we’re all very very excited,” Archibald said.
“It will be appointment-based for us, and that is to minimize waste. With the vaccine, each vial has a certain amount of shots in it and they have to be given within a certain amount of time, so we will use a scheduling system primarily through our website to where patients can schedule appointments to come and get their vaccine,” she explained.
Once the vaccine doses finally arrive at the Johnson City pharmacies, Archibald told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that her staff will be prepared to immunize anyone who is eligible at the time. She added that the efficacy of the vaccines are to be trusted.
“I would highly encourage everyone getting the vaccine,” she said. “It’s been proven to be very effective. We’ve been making vaccines for a long time now. I got the vaccine, so I trust it and I think it’s going to be an awesome, amazing thing and it’s the ticket here with combating this pandemic.”
In Elizabethton, Burgie Drugs last week received an allotment of 100 COVID-19 vaccines, but those were spoken for far too quickly, Pharmacist Renee Horton said.
“Once we got approved, everything moved fairly quickly, as far as they sent us the vaccines and then we were off and running,” she said. “They sent us 100 doses, and then as soon as it started being aired on the news and social media we started getting phone calls from people and at the time it was 75 and older, so we started filling out with the 75 and older and of course, first responders and that sort of thing and now it has been lowered to the age of 70. We still mainly just have the 75 and older since that’s what we started with. We got rid of those 100 vaccines super fast, as far as people calling in and probably over two days, so now we have a waiting list and we’ve moved down to take the 70 and up.”
On Tuesday, Horton told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that they still had some doses left, but they were all spoken for, as patients had yet to arrive for their appointments.
Her wish, however, is that the state send independent pharmacies more vaccines.
“I’m glad that we’ve been able to help people and I wish that we could help more people, I hope they send us more, I wish they would have sent us more right off the bat because we have so many people that need it, so many people that have a story and a good reason as to why they need it and it just plays on your heart. You want to be able to give people the vaccine and we’re just limited by the number they send us, so that’s the only thing that I find frustrating but I’m glad to give the vaccine. People are glad to get it, they’re happy to get it, we’re happy to provide it, so it’s really been a win-win. I hope that the state will send us more and we can keep helping people because I’d say our waiting list is close to 200,” Horton told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais.
Those who would like to be on that waiting list should call the pharmacy, leave their details, and will be placed on the list as soon as supply becomes available and the patient is in the phase currently being vaccinated in Tennessee, she explained.
“We’re even putting people on the list – you don’t even have to be 70 to be on our list – even people that will be in the next age group of 65, even younger people that have different co-morbidities and things, we’re going ahead and putting them on a list, so if we get more vaccines, they’ll be in line,” Horton said. “If they could get us the vaccines, we could get them out, we could get them to people, we make them an appointment, they come in, they get their vaccine, they’re on their way, it’s not a two-hour wait, so I would beg them, please – get it to the pharmacy because we know how to get it to the people.”
The federal government announced Tuesday a partnership with retail pharmacies, which Tennessee’s Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said she would have more information on by next week.
“That does not go through the state, that’s a direct allocation from Operation Warp Speed or the entity formerly known as Operation Warp Speed going directly into retail pharmacies available for the public, that does not come out of our state allocation. They will be following the same phasing guidelines as we have, and so I look forward to sharing more information about that with you next week,” Piercey said.