Wednesday, January 13, 2021

W.Va. uses relationships with local pharmacies to distribute coronavirus vaccine faster than big pharmacy chains

West Virginia is outpacing the rest of the nation in coronavirus vaccine distribution because the state has taken more direct control of the process than other states, instead of relying on big pharmacy chains.

"All 49 other states signed on with a federal program partnering with CVS and Walgreens to vaccinate long-term care and assisted living facilities," Yuki Noguchi reports for NPR. "But those chain stores are less common in West Virginia, so the state instead took charge of delivering its vaccine supply to 250 pharmacies — most of them small, independent stores."

"We have a lot of independent pharmacies or smaller pharmacies that are in the more rural communities, so in order to get the vaccine out to some of those areas, we needed to follow something a little bit different," Gretchen Garofoli, an associate pharmacy professor at West Virginia University in Morgantown, told Noguchi. 

Harnessing existing pharmacy-nursing home relationships also helped speed things up. "Many long-term care sites in the state already use local pharmacies for other vaccines and medicines as well as twice-weekly coronavirus testing of residents and staff," Noguchi reports. "The state decided to piggyback off those existing relationships. Because those pharmacies already had data on many patients, it was easier to begin scheduling appointments in early December, securing consent forms and matching doses to eligible patients — logistics that are confounding efforts in many other states."

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