Independent pharmacy owners said Tuesday they were confident that thousands of Long Island residents could be vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks, despite the turmoil this week.
Tom Dangero, who runs Garden City’s Home Infusion Pharmacy Americale and Franklin Square Pharmacy in Franklin Square, plans to take 600 doses later this week and is a per diem worker certified to be vaccinated. He said he was busy hiring. Staff will be vaccinated first and will start shots at the Garden City site by early next week.
“Pharmacies are pleased to contribute,” said D’Angelo, president of the New York State Pharmacist Association. “They will adapt and understand it.”
Independent pharmacies play an important role in the state’s efforts to increase vaccination coverage. State officials said the federal government only vaccinates about 300,000 times a week, but current guidelines qualify millions of New Yorkers to be vaccinated.
D’Angelo said it believes that pharmacies will receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, which does not have sub-zero storage requirements for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Moderna doses can be refrigerated in units already used to store other vaccines.
Cargo arrives in refrigerated containers from the state via UPS and other ground transportation. D’Angelo said he could only request as many doses as he could administer in seven days.
“If four people are vaccinated, I think we can get 100 to 150 vaccinations a day,” he said.
D’Angelo said he would make a reservation over the phone until he could set up another system. People who are directed to his facility through the state website will be given a phone number.
Howard Jacobson, who owns Rockville Center Pharmacy, said he received the first batch of about 100 batches on Tuesday.
“We will not start booking until Wednesday, and bookings must be made through our website,” Jacobson said. “We will start vaccination on Thursday.”
Jacobson said he received the vaccine after undergoing a certification process with the state. This included filling out a form regarding the storage function. D’Angelo said he went through the same process.
“We know there is a lot of interest in this,” Jacobson said. “Our phone is full of people asking if we want to get vaccinated, so normal patients and doctors can’t contact us. Since we started talking, we’ve been able to answer 11 calls on our cell phones. did not.”
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said on Tuesday that he wanted pharmacies to focus on vaccination of the general public. Currently, only the general public over the age of 65 as a member of the 1b group can be vaccinated.
Priority groups for vaccination include healthcare professionals, first responders, teachers, and transit workers.
Nidin Mohan, owner of Deer Park’s New Island pharmacy, said he was waiting to hear when he would be vaccinated. He requested the state to administer 500 doses.
When the vaccine is delivered, he opens an appointment on the New Island Pharmacy website.
Mohan added that he had asked the state for permission to use a second auxiliary site to vaccinate the public. “We could vaccinate more people,” said the site, which is located in a vacant former clinic in Deer Park.
But for Michael Nastro, owner of Fairview Pharmacy at Port Jefferson Station, who said he had stopped the vaccination program on Tuesday, there were too many phone calls and inquiries about vaccines.
“We are being crushed here,” Nasutoro said. “We don’t have the resources. We are not a vaccination center. We are a pharmacy.”
Nasutoro said the phone system crashed, doctors couldn’t call prescriptions, and customers couldn’t communicate with pharmacies.
He said he would do the 200 doses already ordered, but he doesn’t want to continue after that.
“The amount of phones and demand for this program far exceeds what we can offer,” says Nasutoro. “I don’t think it will get any better. Too many people are trying to get vaccinated.”
As a little mom and pop pharmacy, Nasutoro said he has some important accounts that help keep him afloat in competition with big chains.
“If I lose one of these accounts, my business will fail,” he said.
With Bart Jones