Weeks into vaccination effort, pharmacies seeing progress, not perfection
BATON ROUGE - Since receiving its first batch of coronavirus vaccines the week of Jan. 11, staff at Prescriptions to Geaux have been busy administering more than 1,000 shots.
"We're learning that giving the vaccine is really the easy part," pharmacist T.J. Woodard said.
Woodard says with his waitlist growing to include roughly 12,000 names, scheduling and the accompanying paperwork are proving to be the taxing part.
"We're all kind of learning this and creating it as we go," Woodard said. "I think everybody's working together: LDH, the governor's office, big pharmacies, small pharmacies, we don't really know how to handle this. We didn't until now."
Next week, Prescriptions to Geaux will receive its first batch of second doses for those who got shots at the pharmacy earlier this month. As many providers have, Woodard set up appointments for those patients when they received their first shot.
"When we get that vaccine, it's allocated for them. They are scheduled," Woodard said. "There won't be any hiccups with, you know, panicking, 'hey I'm supposed to get my vaccine tomorrow, and you haven't called me.' We're trying to avoid that as much as we can."
Over the past few days, however, Woodard and his staff have received a handful of calls from customers of other pharmacies who are, too, waiting for their second shot.
"Recently in the last week, we've ... had folks reach out to us because they're due for their second dose, and the location where they got the previous dose doesn't have appointments available," Woodard explained. "They can't schedule online or call the pharmacist and get scheduled. They're reaching out to us, and they've actually been told by those facilities to reach out to us, because we may be able to give them their second dose. It puts us in an awful spot because we can't. I don't have the product to give them."
Some of those people had received their first dose at a local Walgreens store, and should automatically be scheduled to get a second dose at the same location.
A Walgreens corporate spokesperson issued the following state to WBRZ Thursday:
"Eligible individuals are now able to make appointments for both first and second doses at the same time through our website. We will be contacting individuals who have already received their first dose with steps to make their second dose appointment."
Woodard said he does not blame pharmacy staff who are in the thick of managing two fronts -- vaccines and regular business. However, he said a better, more uniform way for people to complete their vaccination series needs to be developed.
"How do we make this process more efficient to take away just the fear of the unknown and the hysteria," Woodard wondered. "I mean, really, it's causing anxiety for a lot of these folks. They're excited. They've gotten their first dose. Now they're ready to get their second and move on to their immunity. What happens if they don't get it?"
LDH told WBRZ Thursday it does not have insight into appointment scheduling, but with second doses being automatically shipped, patients should expect at their first vaccination appointment to be scheduled for the second one. The representative also said there are incentives for pharmacies to the administer the second dose to patients they've been vaccinating.
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