CLEVELAND — The Food and Drug Administration has authorized booster shots of both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for everyone ages 18 and older. That opens up eligibility for tens of millions more fully-vaccinated adults.
With more people potentially heading to pharmacies to get their shots, how are pharmacists preparing for the demand?
“I can't say they're overwhelmed, but they are extremely busy, so we appreciate the public's patience,” said Ernest Boyd, the executive director of the Ohio Pharmacists Association.
Boyd said pharmacists already provide 70% of Ohio’s COVID vaccinations, and now with children ages 5 to 11 eligible and new eligibility for boosters, it means even more responsibility piled on top of their plates.
“People need to realize that pharmacists are still filling all the hundreds of prescriptions they were before COVID hit,” said Boyd. “We're doing our best to figure out how to handle this increased volume.”
Leaders with Discount Drug Mart tell News 5 they’ve seen ebbs and flows in vaccination demand since they started offering them in January. It's picked up again since boosters first became available earlier this fall and they have a strategy in place to make sure their pharmacists can keep up with not only shots, but their other duties as well.
“We're able to determine what the right number of appointments that we'll schedule within the course of a day in order to strike the right balance of, you know, covering ground and protecting our patients, our community, but also making sure our pharmacists have the time to to run a community pharmacy,” said Jason Briscoe, the director of pharmacy operations at Discount Drug Mart.
When those appointments do fill up, Briscoe said their plan covers that too.
“What we're doing specifically to ensure that we can continue to cover the ground at our stores that we do with those wanting a first dose, a second dose, a booster or even those pediatric patients is, if we get to a level and we're there right now where our schedules are full, we go out into the community and look for opportunities to have clinics,” said Briscoe. “Whether that be with school systems, especially with this pediatric population, employers, health departments.”
Briscoe said so far, they’ve seen less vaccine demand for the 5 to 11 age group compared to the 12 to 17 group, but he does think more people will be seeking booster shots in the coming weeks.
If that does happen, he said they’ll just utilize their strategy which has been working for them.
And for those concerned about how long it’ll take to get an appointment, he advises them not to worry.
“I think we're in a really good rhythm with a healthy number of folks that are registered on a path for their booster, but not in a way that they're going to be waiting for weeks or months. We're talking hours or days,” said Briscoe.
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