Pharmacies push for COVID-19 vaccine authorization to help with slow rollout

Pharmacies prepare to distribute COVID-19 vaccines

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Pharmacies across the Carolinas say they’re ready to help administer the COVID-19 vaccine.

But first they need the authorization from North Carolina state leaders.

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores is pushing for that authorization saying there’s no one better for the job than your neighborhood pharmacy.

“If we had one vaccinator at every store across the united states, we’d be able to give 100 million vaccines in less than 30 days,” said Kathleen Jaeger, senior vice president of pharmacy care and patient advocacy for the NACDS.

Pharmacies across North Carolina turned from neighborhood stores to testing sites seemingly overnight.

They’re now pushing to become vaccination clinics.

“Pharmacies are open and we’ve been there on the front line of the pandemic since the beginning. We have the experience and the training and are ready to go,” Jaeger said. “Pharmacies are ready to work with the state and the counties as they see fit.”

As part of Operation Warp Speed, pharmacy groups were identified in November of 2020 to help with the vaccine roll out. The main idea of this group was to get pharmacies prepared to give the vaccine when it became more available to the general public.

This is a separate program than pharmacies vaccinating long term care facilities.

Although expected to start later, the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary announced the program could start earlier depending on what each state needed and saw fit.

“These partners can provide rapid access to vaccines in settings that may be more convenient and efficient than partners they’ve used so far, like hospitals,” said N.C. State Secretary Alex Azar. “To give states as many options as possible, we’re launching the program this week and states can choose particular partners to send vaccines to now.”

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It’s up to each state when and how they allocate vaccines to pharmacies.

Right now in North Carolina, hospitals and county governments are handling vaccinations.

WBTV asked North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services for their timeline on allocating to pharmacies and didn’t get a response.

“As North Carolina and the counties are looking for additional help, I’d ask them to actually look towards a retail partner, look down the corner pharmacy and understand there are health professionals right there that are willing and ready to help vaccinate their residents,” said Jaeger.

But it’s not just up to state governments, the NACDS says this program could be immediately started at the federal level as well and would give people more access to the vaccine in a faster amount of time.

“This critical action requires the federal government to turn on the existing, yet dormant Federal Pharmacy Partnership Program – a program designed to harness the existing, substantial capabilities and efficient operations of the pharmacy industry to proficiently, safely, and equitably vaccinate the American public with COVID-19 vaccines,” a recent NACDS press release said.

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