Independent pharmacies told to “stand by” as Pa. redirects vaccines to “high-performing” providers

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LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — Dave Sweitzer remembers searching frantically to get his COVID-19 vaccination.

“We checked many locations that were providers through a number of sources that were provided on the state’s website,” Sweitzer said. “I was met with some resistance. Either the schedules were full or they weren’t ready to give appointments.”

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Sweitzer, who lives in Harrisburg, said the place he found his shot was at his local mom-and-pop pharmacy.

“It was extremely helpful to be able to find it,” he said.

At Custom Prescriptions of Lancaster, an independent pharmacy, they have given out about 400 of the vaccines since January.

Independent pharmacies are being told they will no longer get first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Custom Prescriptions of Lancaster is one of the providers who got a letter from the Pennsylvania Department of Health telling them to “stand by” as the state temporarily shifts allocations amid limited supply.

Georges Lahoud, a pharmacist at Custom Prescriptions of Lancaster, said he was discouraged by the news, but he said he understood other locations could deliver more vaccines than he could.

“We don’t want to be selfish,” Lahoud told abc27 News. “We just want to make sure everyone gets access to the vaccine.”

“We need to get over the pandemic,” Lahoud added. “It’s important to have as much access to the vaccine and vaccinate the people in Phase 1A so we can move onto Phase 1B.”

Lahoud has said the state told him they will work with him to get second doses to patients he’s already vaccinated.

But others like Sweiter believe the DOH is making a mistake shifting focus.

“I think it’s critical for (people) to be able to go to their smaller, independent pharmacies in order to be able to obtain the vaccination.,” Sweitzer said.

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