Labor shortage strains major US retail pharmacies vaccine services

USA – According to a new Wall Street Journal report, retail pharmacies are struggling to get Americans vaccinated quickly as demand for vaccines and booster shots rises.

According to the Journal, CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart — stores facing staffing shortages in some states — have day-to-week wait times for COVID-19 vaccines. The retail pharmacies supply two-thirds of all COVID-19 vaccines.

The increased demand for COVID-19 shots follows the FDA’s approval of the Pfizer shot for children aged 5 to 11.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recently announced that all adults over the age of 18 are eligible for an additional vaccine jab six months after completing their full Pfizer or Moderna series, or two months after a Johnson & Johnson shot.

The CDC’s recommendation for boosters comes after the World Health Organization designated the Omicron variant, which has been identified in California and New York, as a “variant of concern.”

Researchers are currently investigating whether the Omicron variant is more dangerous than the more easily transmitted Delta variant.

The US government has said there are 100 million Americans who are eligible for boosters but have not yet received them, and that retail pharmacies are providing about two-thirds of the nation’s Covid-19 vaccinations.

Through a federal partnership with nearly two dozen chains, the United States has increased its reliance on those operations for nationwide Covid-19 testing and vaccine distribution.

In this regard the US government has announced that the federal pharmacy partnership is expanding vaccine availability by increasing capacity and ensuring stores are open at convenient times, such as evenings and weekends.

The chains, particularly CVS and Walgreens, have accepted the responsibility because vaccines generate profits, bring customers into stores, and both companies want to expand further into healthcare.

However, the pharmacies have struggled to staff their locations due to a national labor shortage, which has caused some locations to limit hours or close drive-throughs while the companies work to hire thousands more pharmacists and pharmacist technicians.

CVS said in recent months that it hired 23,000 pharmacists, pharmacist technicians, and other workers to assist with the administration of Covid-19 vaccines and tests.

Confusion over drugstores’ ability to give shots to people who walk in without appointments, according to several local health officials, is exacerbating the problem.

For months, retail pharmacies and the White House cited the fact that people could walk into a drugstore without an appointment as proof that the United States’ vaccine efforts had succeeded after a rocky start.

Some Walmart pharmacies have stopped offering walk-in Covid-19 vaccine appointments due to high demand.

Instead, those in need of a vaccine can reserve a spot in those stores online with the wait time to book an appointment running into weeks in some cases, Wall Street Journal reports.

Nonetheless, Walmart is still accepting walk-ins for vaccinations, but the company recommends that people make an appointment.

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