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Local pharmacists talk strain of providing vaccines

Published: Apr. 6, 2021 at 9:37 AM CDT
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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WAFF) - As COVID-19 vaccine eligibility expands across Alabama, local vaccine providers are feeling the strain of an increased demand with the same supply.

“We get calls all day,” said Jillian Lann, the pharmacist in charge at Madison Health Mart Pharmacy.

Lann said, at times, the amount of calls can even prevent them from doing their jobs.

“That ties up our phone lines, so sometimes we are not able to answer when a doctor’s office calls in a prescription because both of the phone lines are people calling to get on the waitlist,” she said.

Michael Powers, the manager at Hazel Green Pharmacy, said he also gets a lot of calls from people trying to get COVID-19 vaccines.

“When the 65 and older became eligible we got just inundated with calls in the first 30 minutes to an hour,” Powers said.

He said in the first two hours of Phase 1A eligibility, they got 200 calls from people wanting a vaccine appointment. Now, Powers said they have taken measures to limit the calls.

“We actually have a voicemail at the very beginning that explains if we have or if we do not have inventory available to distribute to the available population,” Powers said.

Powers said all their appointments are filled up right now. He said the Alabama Department of Public Health is sending them 400 doses of the Moderna vaccine each month. That means they can completely vaccinate 400 people every two months.

Lann said Madison Health Mart is getting 200 doses every month and they have 2,000 people on their waiting list. She said even more people called once vaccine eligibility expanded to everyone 16 and older.

“We had a lot Saturday saying, ‘Monday i’m going to be eligible, when can I be there to get my shot?’ and I’m like, ‘You may be eligible, but unfortunately we do not have the vaccine,’” Lann said. “I know that’s really frustrating to the patient.”

She’s asking people to just be patient.

“Just be patient, keep your hope up,” Lann said. “We are going to get to it but it may not be as soon as you’re hoping.”

Both Lann and Powers advised the quickest way to get a vaccine is to get yourself on as many vaccine waitlists as possible. But, both say once you get a vaccine you need to remember to get your name off of all of the other waiting lists.

“Be courteous and if you put your name on the list somewhere, call back and tell them and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got my vaccine,’ so we can put someone else on the list,” Powers said. “That does take us time and effort to call people and get them on the list and that just increases our workload and if we had less workload we could help more people.”

Lann said she has problems with people on their waiting list not letting them know they got a vaccine elsewhere, too.

“We’ve had days where we have a dose that’s going to expire in an hour and we go down our emergency list and the first 12 people we call have already gotten it somewhere else and just forgot to tell us,” she said.

Both recommend just keeping a list of everywhere you signed up to get a vaccine and once you get one, calling all of those places and letting them know they can take your name off the list.

As local providers continue to vaccinate people, it’s important to remember there are options. Places like hospitals, county health boards and local pharmacies are provided vaccines by the state. The federal government supplies vaccines to CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and Winn Dixie locations. There could be more availability there.

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