NEW CASTLE, Pa. (WYTV) – The CDC says Pennsylvania had the second-highest rate of vaccine doses last week. The state is now changing where you can get a shot, favoring bigger providers over small pharmacies.
One western Pennsylvania pharmacy doesn’t understand being left out.
Spero Stefanis has administered 700 COVID-19 vaccine doses since the first week of February. That group includes people who were terrified to leave their homes and others who cried as they got a dose in the arm.
“This has meant more to me than anything we’ve ever done at Hyde Drug Store,” Stefanis said.
That’s saying plenty. Hyde Drug Store is the oldest continuously operating pharmacy in the state of Pennsylvania. It has been around since 1890.
The state health department has now restricted the vaccine to the larger providers, knocking out the smaller, hometown pharmacies.
“Very disappointing, very disheartening, We want to help people as much as we can and we have the ability to, but the rug was pulled out from under us,” Stefanis said.
Pennsylvania has dwindled away from small pharmacies. Since December, 817 providers have received vaccine doses. Now, the number is around 250, trying to reach over 12 million people in the state.
“I’m not going to say it’s a mistake… but there definitely is. Community pharmacies do have the ability to help in this process,” Stefanis said.
But there is a small window of hope for small pharmacies. While the state has cut them off, the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program could still provide them vaccine doses. Those shots would come from the CDC, but the state hasn’t turned on the program yet.
“This pandemic is stressful for everybody — providers, patients. All the unknowns… For us to do the groundwork, do the preparation, to make sure that we could be there for our community,” Stefanis said.
Hyde Drug Store has roughly 300 vaccine doses remaining. It will be allowed to give them out.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health says it’s trying to concentrate the providers receiving large quantities of the vaccine with a two-mile radius in urban areas, five miles in the suburbs and 30 miles in rural areas.