COVID-19 vaccinations began in earnest Monday in White County for residents 70 and over and those working in educational settings, with six Searcy pharmacies navigating a “very chaotic” effort.
Nancy Showalter, pharmacist and owner of Stotts Drug Store. said the pharmacy is giving the Moderna two-dose vaccine and gave its first dose Jan. 7.
“We have given around 240 doses so far [as of Monday morning],” Showalter said. “We have a waiting list of about a thousand people, and I feel like all the pharmacies in the county are in the same boat.
“It’s very chaotic at this point and I’ve had to have somebody come in just to answer the phone calls. We are working as fast as we can to take care of people, but there’s just not enough vaccinations out there.”
Showalter said the pharmacies are distributing the Moderna vaccine, not the Pfizer one, because that is all they have the “capacity to store.”
“We are getting approximately 100 [doses a week],” she said. “We should be getting another 100 this week. That’s not a lot of help when you have a thousand people waiting.”
Showalter said there is a group of pharmacists who are staying connected via Zoom calls, texts and emails, trying to help coordinate the vaccines as best they can.
Harps Pharmacy intern Madeline Phan, a third-year pharmacy student at Harding University, said the pharmacy also got its first 100 doses in Jan. 7. It has given about 100 doses so far.
“Just recently, corporate launched a portal for people to basically log in with all the information and schedule an appointment. It’s all through our Facebook page, Harps Pharmacy,” Phan said. “There is a link that they click on and it brings them to a portal, so you just can’t give them the link to the portal because it is made up of a bunch of letters, numbers and things. They log in, enter their information and then schedule an appointment.
“When they come to the pharmacy for their scheduled appointment time, we verify that they do qualify. We haven’t had an issue of people pretending to be a health care worker or over 70, but that is just a precaution that we have been taking. We check their identification, their age and stuff and give them the shot. Then we schedule for their second appointment because you do have to have two doses of this.”
Phan said those registering need to put in their zip code when they get to the portal to get their vaccines. “It’s like a universal thing for all Harps,” she said. “First doses were started last week.”
Phan said “fingers crossed” the pharmacy was expecting to get their next shipment of doses Monday.
Stanley Pharmacy and Stanley Pharmacy Compounding Center are administering the vaccines by appointment only, according to a message from Scott Stanley. To get an appointment, residents must email their full name, phone number, date of birth and occupation to email@example.com. The pharmacy will then have someone contact the person with appointment information.
“Due to the limited supply being sent to us by the state of Arkansas, we ask for your patience during this time,” Stanley said. “We are trying to get to everyone.”
Medic Sav-On Drugs Pharmacy Manager Steven Davis said “if you are in the right category, we are scheduling appointments; just call us up and we will get them scheduled.”
He said the pharmacy has been getting 100-200 doses a week. The shipments came in Jan. 7, 12 and 18. Davis said the pharmacy has given about 300 doses of the vaccine so far, noting that Monday’s shipment was 200 more doses.
Joe’s Pharmacy Express is also staying busy giving the vaccine. A clerk said the pharmacy is taking names and phone numbers and a date of birth and will call residents as the vaccines become available.
The initial phase of the vaccine was directed toward health care workers, long-term care residents and staff, emergency medical technicians, firefighters and law enforcement who serve as first responders and other high priority groups. In this phase, hospitals vaccinated workers and pharmacies vaccinated long-term care residents/staff. Community-based pharmacies vaccinate others.
Child care workers and higher education workers join the 70-and-over category in the current 1B phase. Later on, this phase will include food/agricultural workers, firefighters, police and correctional staff who were not in 1A, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, U.S. Postal Service workers and essential government/community workers. Community pharmacies and medical clinics are administering the current phase of 1B vaccinations.
Phase 1C, which is expected to start in April, will focus on 65 years and up with high risk medical conditions and workers in transportation and logistics, water and wastewater, food service, shelter and housing, finance, information technology and communications, energy, media, public safety and public health workers.