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Beyond Big Cities, Independent Pharmacies ‘Begging’ for Vaccine

Bloomberg


Dared and Renee Price are husband-and-wife pharmacists in south-central Kansas, and have spent tens of thousands of dollars and several months getting their six independent outlets in five small towns ready to deliver the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. They’ve had to buy freezers, temperature monitors and a mobile refrigerator.


They’d like to break even. At first, they received just 100 doses through the federal retail pharmacy program, though they’ve since gotten more. It’s unlikely to be a big money-maker -- in Kansas, they’ll be reimbursed about $24 for fully vaccinating someone with two doses -- yet they see it as part of the service they provide to customers who live far from big hospitals and mass immunization sites.


“We were just begging for vaccine,” said Dared Price. “Because we’ve done all this preparation, we had all the processes in place. Our waiting list was thousands of people long.”


Independent pharmacy owners in the U.S. like the Prices are often the sole providers of the Covid vaccine in rural or exurban communities. Over the past month, they’ve started receiving doses to fill gaps in the nation’s vaccination campaign, making appointments in their stores and setting up clinics in churches, factories and schools, and even making house calls to homebound patients. The Prices partnered with a local meatpacking plant, Creekstone Farms, to give shots to workers.


But a majority of independent owners are still waiting for supply. And those who have received doses must navigate the challenges of billing and the intense reporting requirements that big chain pharmacies often have entire departments to handle.


Independent pharmacies are ready to provide much more vaccine, said Cody Clifton, project leader for Covid-19 vaccines at CPESN USA, a network of community-based pharmacies in 45 states that includes the Prices’ pharmacies. About 2,000 members signed up for the program, and of those, about 1,800 don’t yet have vaccine. Continue Reading

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