PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The coronavirus vaccine could be coming to a pharmacy near you.
“Pharmacies are getting calls countless times per day asking about the vaccine,” says Asti Drug pharmacist Chris Antypas. “We expect doses any day now.”
The federal government plans for 3,000 to 6,000 pharmacies to administer shots in the next couple of weeks, expanding availability beyond hospitals.
“It’s actually quite convenient. You’ve got pharmacies on most corners. Most towns have more than one pharmacy,” Antypas said.
There are 40,000 pharmacies involved in the distribution plan, including Walmart, Rite Aid, Costco and independent community pharmacies. Only a fraction of stores — yet to be determined — would receive the vaccine.
Most pharmacies do not have ultracold freezers, which are required for the Pfizer vaccine, but they can get a regular freezer, which is adequate for the Moderna vaccine.
“We will be dispensing and administering the Moderna vaccine. And for now, Pfizer will be at these large health care institutions,” Antypas says. “We have epinephrine on hand in the event that anybody experiences anaphylaxis.”
Scheduling appointments for people to come in will be key because once the vial is thawed, it has to be used in a matter of hours.
“It’s a logistical challenge,” Antypas said.
This also requires personnel.
“These large chains are looking for contract employees,” Antypas said.
Ultimately, the decision about how pharmacies will immunize is up to the states. For now, health care workers and nursing home residents are the priority.
“We gotta see what we get, how many doses we get. And then from all of the individuals who have expressed interest, we’re prioritizing them in accordance with the CDC guidelines,” said Antypas. “I fully expect Asti to administer thousands and thousands of doses of this vaccine. So we’re just anxious to get our hands on it.”
Pharmacies do not expect many no-shows but will have a waitlist so no doses go to waste. And as for having enough, if you get the first shot, a second one is automatically reserved for you.