Appointments Scarce Even As More Retail Pharmacies Offer Vaccines

Thanks to federal and state partnerships, some local retail locations of CVS, Walgreens, Safeway, and Harris Teeter are offering no-cost vaccine appointments separate from Fairfax County.

However, with demand far exceeding supply, appointments remain extremely hard to come by, even as the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine begins to roll out.

Virginia is currently in Phase 1b, meaning those 65 or over and those with 16 to 64 with underlying medical conditions are eligible to receive the vaccine.

The Virginia Health Department tells Reston Now, Tysons Reporter’s affiliate site, that more than 80,000 doses are being given to retail pharmacies statewide for distribution, an increase from last month.

The 69,000 J&J vaccine doses announced last week started coming in yesterday (Mar. 4), VDH confirms, and clinics across the state are expecting to start using it today (Friday).

VDH also says that they’ve directed retail pharmacies to “prioritize” those 65 and over to “make significant progress in vaccinating that vulnerable population.” All of this provides hope that more vaccines and more appointments will soon become available for those that are eligible.

Early last month, CVS began offering vaccine appointments at local stores. Currently, it is providing the vaccine through 41 pharmacies in Virginia with appointments booked through their website, but that includes only one location in Fairfax County.

CVS spokesperson Amy Thibault says there are roughly 41,580 appointments per week available at the 41 locations statewide, meaning each store has about 1,000 appointments per week. Most of them are using the Moderna vaccine.

However, as of today, all appointments have been booked at the one Fairfax location.

“In most (if not all) states, the number of individuals who are eligible to receive the vaccine under the state’s rules far outnumber the state’s available doses,” Thibault said.

Currently, more than 100,000 people are on the Fairfax County Health Department’s waitlist. As of Mar. 4, close to 150,000 people in Fairfax County have gotten at least one vaccine dose, and 87,401 people have been fully vaccinated, according to the VDH data dashboard.

Thibault confirmed that CVS is receiving a “one-time allocation” of 212,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week that will be sent to stores in 17 states. Scheduling for that began yesterday (Mar. 4) on the CVS website, with vaccinations starting today (March 5).

She says CVS has the capacity to administer 20 to 25 million doses a month nationwide, assuming there’s an adequate amount of not only the vaccine, but also other supplies.

Other retail pharmacies offering vaccines in Fairfax County face similar challenges.

Safeway and its parent company Albertsons are offering appointments to those 65 and over. According to their online scheduler, the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine is now being offered.

Locations in the county include one on Elden Street in Herndon, South Lakes Drive in Reston, Georgetown Pike in Great Falls, and West Ox Road in Fairfax.

So far, no appointments are currently available at least through March 13 at any locations.

“Store supply is based on allocations from state and local health departments. New appointments are added to the online scheduler as more vaccine become available,” Albertsons spokesperson Andrew Whelan told Reston Now. “Demand is high and appointments are often claimed very quickly. As dose allocations increase, so too will the opportunity to secure an appointment.”

Walgreens joined the federal partnership on Feb. 24 and has started administering vaccines in Virginia. But, right now, there are no appointments available within 25 miles of Tysons, Reston, or Fairfax.

Harris Teeter’s website says limited quantities of vaccine would be available at select locations in Virginia starting on Mar. 1, but a company spokesperson told Reston Now that this hasn’t happened yet.

“Harris Teeter is expected to receive limited quantities of the vaccines soon at nine pharmacies in and around Northern Virginia…Appointments will be released as vaccine allocations arrive,” the spokesperson wrote.

Giant has taken another approach. Instead of creating its own appointment system, the grocery chain is using the vaccine supply allocated to them by the federal government to help the Fairfax County Health Department vaccinate their waitlist.

“People invited from the queue will be able to select from several Giant locations within the Fairfax Health District,” the health department said on its blog. “Locations and details will be included in the appointment scheduler email.”

Photo via Fairfax County Health Department

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