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U.S. pharmacies are struggling to keep up with Americans' demand for coronavirus vaccines and tests, and the pressure could intensify as antiviral pills to treat COVID-19 are approved by federal regulators.
“There's crazy increased demand on pharmacies right now,” Theresa Tolle, an independent pharmacist whose store in Sebastian, Fla., has seen COVID-19 vaccine demand quadruple since the summer, told the Associated Press.
She said her pharmacy is now giving about 80 COVID-19 shots a day, compared with 20 before the Delta wave.
Temporary pharmacy closures due to staffing shortages have also become more common in recent months, according to Anne Burns, a vice president with the American Pharmacists Association.
Many pharmacies already had low staffing levels before the pandemic, and a large number of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians have left since COVID-19 appeared, she explained.
Pharmacies also have been handling more phone calls from customers with questions about vaccines or COVID-19 tests, Justin Wilson, who owns three independent pharmacies in Oklahoma, told the AP.
“We're all working a lot harder than we did before, but we're doing everything we can to take care of people,” Wilson said, adding that he has not had to temporarily close any of his pharmacies or limit hours so far.
Sherri Brown, a city employee in Omaha, Neb., told the AP that she was searching for a vaccine booster, but two nearby pharmacies didn't have appointments available and a third didn't have the brand she wanted. She wound up getting a shot at a county-run clinic.
“I just wanted to protect myself,” Brown, who suffered through two weeks of coughing, headaches and fatigue when she caught the virus in January, before she was vaccinated. “I guess I'm encouraged to see that people are taking this more seriously.”
Robert Preidt and Robin Foster
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