Hope and frustration as US steps up pharmacy vaccinations

Hope and frustration as US steps up pharmacy vaccinations

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For some, it's the chance to be reunited with grandchildren. For others, the first step on the long road back to normal, knowing that they will soon be protected from COVID-19.

Retail pharmacies in the United States began administering a million doses of vaccine on Friday, which were sent to them by President Joe Biden's administration. This is the latest sign that the country's vaccination campaign is gaining momentum.

On a bitterly cold day in Bethesda, just outside the capital, Washington, a steady stream of elderly people arrived at their local CVS pharmacy for their first dose of Moderna's two-shot course.

"That's wonderful, it's really convenient," said Ted Pocher, 76.

His wife, Liz Pocher, added that their daughter signed them up online at 6:30 a.m. the day before.

"I tried to get on my phone and it was already full, but she was on the computer and she did it," said the 67-year-old who works for the National Gallery of Art.

"It hurt a little," she said, laughing at the bump.

Around 6,500 drug stores and supermarket pharmacies have started administering their first doses as part of a federal partnership, and the program is to be expanded to 40,000 sales outlets.

It's seen as a way to reduce the burden on state health departments while also making it more convenient for people who are already used to getting their flu vaccinations in places like CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens.

After a rough start, vaccination rates are rising in the US, and 35.8 million people have now had at least one dose, about 10 percent of the population.

Help from children

Like the Pochters, Tahmineh Mirmirani needed her son's help to get on the internet and book her early Thursday appointment.

Now the 81-year-old, who once worked as a journalist in her native Iran, said she was looking forward to seeing her grandchildren soon.

Lee, a 72-year-old retiree who only gave his first name, said he was happy to get his vaccine after weeks of trying. "We have registered everywhere, in the county and in the state."

However, his relief was dampened by the fact that his wife, who was accompanying him, could not get a vaccine on Friday and the couple had to return to their appointment on Monday.

"We have a graduating grandchild who is a graduating senior. And we want to be able to graduate," he said when it actually happens.

"We hope that the summer with COVID and the vaccine will bring better results. I hope that by then you can vaccinate a lot of people."


Many others found navigating the vaccination registration system frustrating.

Faye Elkins, 74, said she stood in line Thursday to get vaccinated at a local high school only to learn that, as advertised, it was only available to those over the age of 75 and not to those over 65 were.

"We were turned away along with many other people, some of whom stood in line in the cold for up to three hours," she said.

Elkins and her husband, Jim Barnett, said they failed to get an appointment with CVS despite their best efforts, but were there to try their luck should anyone cancel.

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Hope and Frustration as US Steps up Pharmacy Vaccinations (2021 Feb 13)
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