CLAYTON, Mo. (KMOV.com) -- It's been more than a month since Missouri gave long-term care facilities the green light to get the vaccine, and Walgreens and CVS were tasked with giving out shots to staff and residents as part of the Federal Pharmacy Program. Tuesday afternoon, some say the pharmacy chains could be to blame for delays within those facilities.
While CVS and Walgreens are still vaccinating people in long-term care facilities, state officials said that's the reason they can't start administering the shot to people in the next phase. The slow rollout has residents frustrated and those in need of the vaccine eager for answers.
"They’ve had months to plan this, they knew this was coming, they had plenty of indication that the manufacturers had had the doses and we had this warp speed operation that sounded very confident about getting the doses out," said Sue Urso, a 72-year-old waiting for the shot. "It’s about saving lives. I have a friend whose husband passed away from COVID last month. It was devastating, absolutely devastating, and if he may have been able to get he vaccine earlier, we don’t know what the outcome would’ve been."
The State of Missouri allocated 332,000 doses to Walgreens and CVS under the Federal Pharmacy Program, but so far, only 57,000- or about 17 percent- of those shots have been administered. CVS officials told News 4 they've administered at least the first dose at every skilled nursing facility in Missouri and that 92 percent of assisted living facilities in the state have their first dose.
Lynn Wakefield is like many Missouri residents, she’s pre-registered with hospital systems and her county health department, but she’s playing the waiting game.
The discrepancy comes, according to CVS, because the number of vaccines originally allocated by the state was based on maximum occupancy numbers from those long-term care facilities. Not every facility is at maximum capacity. The other factor is staff hesitancy. Based on feedback from their field teams, CVS reported about 40 to 50 percent of staff members at long-term care facilities are declining the shot.
Health officials are "extremely" worried about the new Covid-19 variants that have been detected in the US and what they could mean over the coming months, one expert said Monday night.
Walgreens hasn't responded to a request for comment as of this publishing and senior citizens who aren't in long-term care facilities are left wondering if those discrepancies are keeping them from getting the shot.
State officials report 3.2 million people are eligible to get the vaccine, but Missouri only receives 76,000 doses from the federal government each week. Local healthcare providers say the uncertainty of when and how much of the vaccine they will be receiving is hindering the rollout.
"The challenge we have seen so far in the vaccination plans is the consistency with the delivery of vaccine, and by that I mean by any given week, health care systems aren’t exactly sure how much vaccine we will be receiving," said Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Pandemic Task Force. "It may be we get some of what we asked for, all of what we asked for or none of what we asked for, but we don’t know that until that week comes by."
News 4 reached out to both CVS and Walgreens to find out what happens to any leftover vaccine doses that were not administered. CVS sent us the following response:
"We follow all CDC and manufacturer guidelines with regard to the proper storage and distribution of each COVID-19 vaccine. If one of our long-term care facility vaccination teams is onsite and cannot use all doses requested by the facility, our team determines if the remaining doses will remain clinically viable and can be transported for use at another facility or for another eligible population. In the rare instance that doses have reached their expiration they are disposed of per CDC and manufacturer guidelines."
Walgreens later sent the following statement:
Per CDC guidance, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine can be at refrigerated temperatures for five days, and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine can be at refrigerated temperatures for 30 days at. It’s important to use every dose before expiring dates for both COVID-19 vaccines. Any remaining doses from scheduled long-term care facility clinics are reallocated to the next scheduled clinic at a long-term care facility. In the event that are remaining doses from a clinic that may potentially expire before the next scheduled clinic, those doses may be used to vaccinate Walgreens team members who are eligible to receive vaccines as part of the Phase 1a plan outlined by the CDC and states. If there are access doses that are not being used for clinics, Walgreens communicates regularly with the state and jurisdictions to determine next steps for reallocation.