By Abby Zimmardi
As phase 1-B of COVID-19 vaccine distribution began this week, some pharmacists across Arkansas who are administering vaccines say they’re overwhelmed with long wait lists and not enough vaccine doses to meet the demand.
“We have a little over 600 people on a wait list, and as of right now, we’re only getting 100 doses a week,” said Adam Keathley, pharmacy manager of Cornerstone Pharmacy Jacksonville in Pulaski County.
Phase 1-B of vaccine distribution made approximately 400,000 additional people eligible to receive vaccines, said Gavin Lesnick, Arkansas Department of Health public information officer. This group includes people 70 years and older and education workers, according to the ADH.
The ADH estimated that phase 1-B will be finished in April, although it could be extended to last longer if needed, Lesnick said.
“Nobody expected that we would have all of the teachers vaccinated within one week, and right now we’re in our second day,” Governor Asa Hutchinson said during the Jan. 19 news conference.
Although there is not enough vaccine to meet the demand, the ADH is communicating with pharmacies to determine the proper allocations from the limited supply of vaccines available, Lesnick said.
“This is going to be a longer process than many people think,” Keathley said. “It’s going to take several months to get this group of people vaccinated. I think everyone assumed that they were going to be done this week, which is just simply not the case.”
While Pulaski County pharmacies are experiencing long vaccine waitlists, Gammel’s Clinic Pharmacy in Ashley County in southern Arkansas has not experienced a limited supply of vaccines, said pharmacist Katie Land.
Gammel’s Clinic Pharmacy is receiving 100-300 vaccines a week, which is enough to meet the demand, Land said. Ashley County has about 20,000 residents.
The ADH received 18,600 COVID-19 vaccine doses Jan. 19, according to the ADH. After receiving the allocation size, the ADH divides the vaccine around the state based on population and information that pharmacists gathered about demand, Lesnick said.
As vaccine demand increases, Land said she is hopeful that there will not be a shortage of vaccines at the pharmacy. If there is a shortage, Land has planned to use a wait list to keep track of and try to vaccinate everyone who signed up to receive a vaccine.
At Southern Pharmacy of Arkansas in Craighead County, the vaccine wait list ranges anywhere from 1,500-2,000 people, staff pharmacist Kyle Lomax said. There is no confirmation on how many doses the pharmacy will receive, leaving the wait list to continue to grow.
“We just need the public’s patience,” Lomax said. “Healthcare in general is working as diligently as possible to meet the demand for vaccines, and we just need patience and understanding.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled Adam Keathely’s last name.