While Montgomery County, and other nearby counties, fight with the Pennsylvania Department of Health over the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, a local pharmacy is concerned about the impact of the state cutting back from providing doses of the vaccine to community-based pharmacies.
Just how bad is the situation between the county and the state? Montgomery County Commissioner Ken Lawrence referred to the ability to obtain vaccine as the “Hunger Games” during a March 24th press conference.
At the very local level, the family-run Village Pharmacy in Spring House had been excited to be able to assist in bringing an end to the pandemic by offering its customers and the general public the opportunity to be vaccinated right at its location on Bethlehem Pike. Over two months, Jamie McVan, RpH, shared that the pharmacy had administered approximately 1,400 doses (a mix of first and second doses) and believes it has enough in inventory to offer the second dose to those who are awaiting it.
However, the state is no longer offering the vaccine to smaller operations like the Village Pharmacy. McVan stated that the pharmacy received two letters from the state that reduced and then ended at least temporarily the pharmacy’s ability to obtain the vaccine. The state shifted its focus to sites that are able to handle larger numbers. The pharmacy currently has about 10,000 people registered to receive the vaccine, but among the 10,000 there are likely people who have registered with other pharmacies and/or government entities as well.
That fact leads back to Lawrence’s referring to the process as the “Hunger Games.” The public is basically left to register for the vaccine at multiple locations and hope they get lucky with one of them. According to McVan, 20 to 30 people stop into the pharmacy each day looking to get vaccinated or figure out how to get on the list.
McVan offered that he doesn’t see the logic in cutting out the smaller vaccination sites such as Village Pharmacy. The reduction means that instead of 1,200 locations across the state offering the vaccine it will now be cut to 200 to 300. While Village Pharmacy can’t vaccinate thousands per week, he believes the smaller vaccination sites are vital to communities by providing in-home vaccinations to the homebound and offering a local option to those who are unable to travel to a larger site.
The Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association shared similar sentiments on the issue in a press release:
These local providers play an important role in serving their patients and communities and should be viewed as an “AND” approach versus an “OR” approach – able to do what many larger providers cannot – reach the highly vulnerable patients who cannot travel to and wait in line at large clinics. Community pharmacies are trusted local Pennsylvania businesses, many of whom have proven they are willing and able providers to help solve the vaccine administration and increasing vaccine hesitancy challenges we are facing at this most critical time in our Commonwealth.
For now, Village Pharmacy submits a weekly request for the vaccine and hopes that the requests will be eventually filled.
Below is the video from the Montgomery County press conference:
Photo: Village Pharmacy