When it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations, one thing is consistent across the board: FRUSTRATION. We hear you. You are trying everything you’ve been told to do, and you still have not been able to get a vaccination.
We especially hear the concern from those of you who don’t have access to the internet or are not computer savvy. In order to speed the distribution of the vaccine, most organizations are requiring you to sign up for appointments online.
We want you to know that we share in your frustration. We also want to be transparent about how we have been working to administer as many vaccinations as possible. Here’s where we have been and where we are going.
Our clinical pharmacist, Dr. Ashli Yoder, has been diligently working with the Pennsylvania Department of Health for many months to acquire vaccinations for our patients. There have been many hoops to jump through and many challenges to overcome. We are all grateful for the resiliency Ashli has displayed as she’s worked tirelessly in this task.
As soon as independent pharmacies were permitted to request vaccinations (mid-January), Ashli began submitting weekly requests to the Department of Health. Once the request is submitted, it can take five to seven days before finding out if the request has been approved, revised, or denied. It then takes another one to two days to actually receive the vaccine (or longer if there are weather-related delays).
Once we receive the vaccine, we open the corresponding amount of appointments on the day or days that we will be administering the vaccinations (approximately 110 shots per day). Most of those appointments are open on our online scheduling site, but several are only available at the store for patients who cannot schedule online. We then send out an automated call to the corresponding number of patients on our notification list. The call explains what phase we are in and who is eligible for a shot and directs those who are eligible to the website or store to sign up for an appointment.
We had been told by the Department of Health that we were guaranteed to get enough second doses to cover anyone we gave the first dose to. Furthermore, the Department of Health told us that if we did not administer the vaccinations that were shipped to us in a timely manner, we may not get any future shipments of vaccine.
Based on this information, we informed our patients who were vaccinated, that their second dose appointment would be scheduled four weeks after their first shot, at the same time. We followed the state’s directions and did not hold back any vaccine we received to be used for second doses.
On January 26th, we received our first vaccine shipment which included 500 doses. We administered those vaccinations on January 27th, 28th, and 29th and on February 3rd (which had been moved back from February 1st due to weather-related issues). On Friday, February 5th, we received 100 doses which we administered on Monday, February 8th. And on Friday, February 12th, we received another 100 doses which we administered on Wednesday, February 17th (which had again been moved back due to weather).
It was at this point in the process that we were preparing for the second doses to begin. The Department of Health then hosted a webinar to explain that they would not have enough second doses to fulfill our request. It seems that the state had inadvertently sent out doses that were supposed to be saved for second doses to organizations that needed first doses.
The state is assuring us that all our patients who received their first dose will receive their second dose within 42 days. As such, we will have to work to reschedule our second dose appointments, but cannot do so until we receive information from the state on when we will actually receive that vaccine,
In the meantime, we have been informed that our most recent request for first doses has been denied. Our vaccination notification list currently has approximately 3,000 phone numbers which represent even more people. We will continue to work diligently to provide vaccinations to everyone on our list. Unfortunately, there are many factors out of our control.
We appreciate your patience and understanding as we all learn and grow through this process. We encourage you to reach out to your state representatives and to the Department of Health with your concerns.
We will do our best to communicate to you what we know. Please be sure to follow us on Facebook for the latest information and updates.
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