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Local independent pharmacies feel left out of Ohio's vaccine rollout

Sand Run Pharmacy.jpg
Posted at 6:12 PM, Jan 19, 2021

AKRON, Ohio — Workers at some independent pharmacies feel frustrated and left out of the vaccine rollout plan for Phase 1B which is targeting seniors 80 years and older.

Sand Run Pharmacy in Akron is taking about 100 phone calls a day and has a COVID-19 vaccine waiting list of more than 2,000 people.

"We are getting besieged with phone calls and inquiries on 'will you have the vaccine? Can I get a shot from you? When is it going to be available?' We wish we had the answers and that's the frustrating part for us, for them. We don't know when we'll get the vaccine. We don't know how much vaccine we'll get," said owner, Meg Lamb.

Several residents are also walking into the pharmacy with the same questions.

That includes 70-year-old Rita Howard who has placed herself on waiting lists at several different locations.

"I have some preexisting conditions. I have asthma and some other lung issues so I'm interested. I miss being able to hug my grandson," Howard said.

In Summit County, several stores including Giant Eagle, Discount Drug Mart and Acme are receiving their first allotment of the vaccine this week.

Lamb said her business, and several other local independent pharmacies, have done their homework and training and stand ready to do their part.

"We're ready. We have all of our staff trained. We have multiple staff members who can get vaccines in people's arms," Lamb said.

Lamb also pointed to the pharmacy's long history of giving other vaccines, including shingles and travel vaccines. Sand Run averages about 8,000 flu shots each year.

"We've been a good community partner in the past when the H1N1 epidemic was here," she said.

Melanie Amato, a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Health, said the agency is not favoring large chains and that some independent pharmacies were included in the distribution, but added that ODH did not get enough vaccine per week to include everyone.

During Governor DeWine's news conference on Tuesday, News 5 asked about the concerns raised by the pharmacists. DeWine acknowledged more must be done.

"I had this specific discussion with my team yesterday and I said we need to include more independent pharmacies," DeWine said. "I've instructed our team to make sure they're more included."

In the meantime, Lamb said her pharmacists will keep answering the flood of vaccine questions and we'll be ready to activate a plan when their shipment comes in.

"If you want to get shots in people's arm, get the vaccine in the hands of the independent pharmacists. They are ready," she said.