ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) - Rural Missouri pharmacies, once a hot destination to receive a coveted COVID-19 vaccine, are struggling to keep long-distance travelers coming back for their second dose.

"There are a lot of second doses in rural pharmacies," said Michaela Newell with the Missouri Pharmacy Association. "Those pharmacies are having a lot of problems giving their second doses because it was someone driving from St. Louis to Cape Girardeau and now they're not going to do that anymore."

As supply is steadily increasing, many urban residents are securing appointments for their second dose of vaccine closer to home. However, the State of Missouri recommends everyone receive both doses at the same place. Many rural pharmacies say as a result, they're drawing up doses for people who don't call to cancel their appointment and don't show up. It leaves them scrambling on the phone trying to get someone to come to the pharmacy to ensure the dose doesn't go to waste.

"There are a lot of pharmacists who are working well into the evening, spending time away from their families, to make sure every dose is accounted for and nothing is wasted," said Newell.

Dr. Tyler Taylor, the pharmacist at St. Louis Hills Pharmacy, said he is feeling the impact of people uninterested in driving long distances to receive their second dose.

"I've had people calling me and saying, 'I'm going to sign up with you to get my second dose because I don't want to drive 'x' amount of time to get my second dose," he said. "I have to tell them, please don't do that, please go back to your original site."

Taylor said he has 3,000 pre-registered with his pharmacy and people seeking solely a second dose complicates matters. He said he spends nearly two hours a day ensuring any doses that remain unclaimed are taken by someone.

"Once you start contacting people it's like, 'I already got it, I already got it, I already got it,'" he said. "I can call 50 people and get nobody scheduled."

Taylor said time spent on the phone could be better put to use administering vaccines. With all tiers opening up on April 9 in Missouri, he said the logistics should get simpler.

"It'll be easier in the sense that we won't have to decipher who is eligible and who isn't," he said. 

Hiba Halabi opened Express Specialty Pharmacy in the St. Louis region several years ago. Currently, it has two locations, one in Belleville and the other operating out of satellite location in Frontenac.

"We're vaccinating about 300 people a day with Moderna and J&J," Halabi said.

Beginning next week, the clinic in Frontenac plans to be open five days a week and Halabi said anyone who is unable to secure an appointment can arrive around 5:30 p.m. to see if any extra doses are available.

"It's not a guarantee, but if there are, you can get your vaccine," she said.

She said those seeking their second dose can schedule an appointment online as well. 

"People are tired of driving three or four hours to go to their initial clinic where they go their first dose," she said. "So you can come here if you received the Moderna as your first dose."

To see available appointments, visit www.expressbooknow.com. The Frontenac location is at 10431 Clayton Road. The Belleville location is located at 1 Royal Heights Ctr.

Halabi said every Monday, more appointments are added to the site once the pharmacy confirms its shipment from the state for that week.

Copyright 2021 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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