RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The White House announced on Tuesday it is going to distribute more COVID-19 vaccines to pharmacies across the country.
The goal is to increase access to the vaccine.
It’s also what North Carolina State Treasurer Dale Folwell has been asking for. He wants to have more than health systems and health departments distributing the vaccine. He’s advocating for a new plan.
“What’s behind it is the tremendous frustration across North Carolina with people not being able to get their vaccines,” Folwell said.
He wants the state to take what he calls a PPP approach. The three “Ps” are primary care physicians, pediatricians, and pharmacies.
“All the vaccinations I’ve ever experienced, both as an individual and as a father, have been through primary care physicians, pediatricians, and pharmacies,” Folwell explained.
He said they’ve reliably and professionally been administering vaccines for more than a century, so they should be part of the COVID-19 vaccine efforts.
The North Carolina Association of Pharmacists said it wants to help.
“In order to get all our 10.5-plus million people vaccinated, we’re going to need to use an all-hands-on-deck approach,” said Penny Shelton, executive director of the association.
Many pharmacists have done the training to administer them.
“There’s a sense of frustration on the part of pharmacies (and) pharmacists that have done what they need to do to be ready,” Shelton said. “I believe there’s a way we could more strongly partner with local community pharmacies.”
State leaders said the issue is supply. Officials from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said they want to expand the number of providers and are trying to do so. However, they said they’re not getting enough vaccine to the current providers as it is.
“We’re working to get vaccine out to all of the folks in North Carolina who need it as quickly and equitably as possible,” said NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen.
The White House is launching a federal retail pharmacy program. It is going to start distributing vaccines to several pharmacies.
Walgreens will be one of the first in North Carolina, according to Cohen. This will be a separate supply from what the state gets.
Following direction from the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Walgreens has been selected to provide an initial allotment of 31,200 COVID-19 vaccinations at 300 stores in North Carolina as part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership beginning in stores Feb. 12 for eligible individuals, according to a release from the company.
“We need to think again about how we’re distributing this because the more delays that happen, it’s creating more death, more poverty, and more illiteracy as it relates to public education,” Holwell said. “We’re not trying to damn anyone. We’re trying to get the policy and the process right.”
Although supply remains an issue, Folwell said the state should allow more people to administer the doses available.
He said it’d speed up the process and allow greater access.
“This vaccine is what’s going to be necessary to not only bend the health care curve of this state but also bend the economic curve,” Folwell said. “People in this state are really upset about the fact we’ve had 11 months to think about how to distribute this vaccine and it’s not going really well.”