Small Pharmacies Dissatisfied With State's New Vaccine Distribution Plan

The Pennsylvania Department of Health says it is going to reduce the number of pharmacies distributing the COVID-19 vaccine, but that's not sitting well with some. KDKA's Ross Guidotti reports.

Video Transcript

- Coronavirus vaccines will not be going out to as many pharmacies. The state health department says it will be sending doses to pharmacies that it says have been more efficient at getting shots into arms. And that decision, not sitting well with some Pennsylvanians. Westmoreland County Bureau Chief, Ross Guidotti, talked with some of those people. He joins us live right now with their reaction. Ross.

ROSS GUIDOTTI: Hi, Kim. The state says, in the long run, this plan is going to get more shots into more arms quicker. But I spoke to a small town pharmacist, and she told us the plan, as it stands, essentially treats the people that she serves like second class citizens. It was a busy day at Roadway Pharmacy in the small Westmoreland County town of Seward.

- Careful of my chicken.

BRITTANY MILLER: OK.

ROSS GUIDOTTI: The store lined with chairs--

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Pharmacist Brittany Miller administered doses of COVID-19 vaccine, one day after the State Department of Health told her and hundreds of other small pharmacies they won't be seeing any more doses any time soon.

BRITTANY MILLER: We get this email and now we're getting cut off because we didn't, you know, we didn't do enough.

ROSS GUIDOTTI: More than 1,000 locations had been getting the vaccine. That number is now to just over 300.

BRITTANY MILLER: It just tells me that we weren't important enough in this small rural area to get the vaccine.

ROSS GUIDOTTI: The state telling those crossed off the list, "In the near term, we are asking that you stand by as we temporarily focus allocations on other providers amid limited supply. You should not expect the first doses or receive additional first doses over the next several weeks. We look forward to the day we can distribute the vaccine to all of our providers." Harrisburg says the 300 still on the list have simply done a better job at getting people vaccinated.

BRITTANY MILLER: Essentially, they put us on like a report card, you know. They were like, well you just didn't do enough. Well they didn't give us any. How can we not do enough if you're not giving us the vaccine to do it.

ALICE WHITE: I think it's ridiculous.

ROSS GUIDOTTI: Alice White got her first shot. White telling me some seniors and those vulnerable living in rural areas may not have access to pharmacies deemed worthy for more vaccines.

ALICE WHITE: It is counter intuitive, and it's another thing, you're putting these people at risk.

TOM WYNKOOP: - You're restricting the vaccine to a handful of pharmacies or whatnot, and not giving to the small ones that are actually involved in the community.

ROSS GUIDOTTI: Tom Wynkoop is a nurse and has helped administer COVID-19 vaccines at Roadway says, while well-intentioned, the state plan is the epitome of inequity.

TOM WYNKOOP: There's hundreds of people here that need that vaccine. And they want it, and they need it. You give it to everybody or you don't give it out at all.

ROSS GUIDOTTI: All right, Britney Miller tells me the state has told her and presumably all these other pharmacies cut off the list, that they're going to get the second doses within that 42 day window for all the people who got the initial first dose. Remember, they're not going to get any more first doses. Britney told me, however, she will believe that when she sees it. In Greensburg, Ross Guidotti, KDKA News.