By STEELE HAUGEN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
To increase COVID vaccination distribution the Biden administration announced on Tuesday a federal retail pharmacy program.
The program is a public-private partnership with 21 national pharmacy partners.
“Starting on February 11th, the federal government will deliver vaccines directly to select pharmacies across the country,” Jeff Zients, Biden Administration COVID-19 Response Coordinator said. “This will provide more sites for people to get vaccinated in their communities and it’s an important component to delivering vaccines equitably.”
One-million doses will be distributed to 6,500 pharmacies nationwide, including Walgreen and Walmart. But there are no Oregon locations on either of those pharmacies lists.
Other chains have not yet announced their plans for the state.
With so much uncertainty, smaller, local pharmacies worry they may be left out.
“I was uncomfortable from the get-go with giving people an estimation of when I might get it and then having any idea how much it I will actually receive because there was so much wishy-washy information since the state of the announcement that we were going to get some at all,” said Jeannie Mendazona Owner of Hometown Drugs in Madras.
“I have some concerns with that because the way our healthcare system has been evolving, it’s just becoming more and more that we are at the mercy of great big corporations and they are extremely accessible to the government.”
Deschutes County Public Health says they have no information on local pharmacy vaccine distribution.
Andy Schlickt, manager at Westside Pharmacy in Bend, is also concerned small pharmacies will be left out but says this is a step in the right direction.
“Pharmacies are a great resource for patients for access to healthcare, so I think it is great they are rolling it out,” Schlickt said.
Mendazona says pharmacies have a different feel than clinics.
“I think it will make it a lot more comfortable for a lot of people who are used to coming to the drug store to get medications,” Mendazona said. “I think it will make them feel safer and more at home.”
The Biden administration says it will eventually increase vaccine distribution to 40,000 pharmacies nationwide.