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Staffing shortages hit pharmacies as demand for shots skyrocket

Customers could see longer wait times at some pharmacies across the nation as demand for shots increases in the midst of COVID-19 and flu season.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Multiple pharmacies across the nation are working to hire more staff as the demand for shots skyrocket amidst COVID-19 and the flu season. 

Now, some businesses are warning customers they could face longer wait times. 

The recent rollout of booster shots in addition to the expected rollout of 'kid-sized' COVID-19 shots for 5 to 11-year-olds has also increased the need for skilled staffers as administering the COVID-19 vaccine has become more complicated due to varying dosage requirements. 

A National Community Pharmacists Association survey conducted from May 26-28 found that 80% of independent community pharmacists are having a difficult time filling open positions. Nearly 90 percent of pharmacies in that same study claimed they are having trouble finding pharmacy technicians and nearly 60% said they can't find front-end employees, per NCPA. 

The report also found 25% can’t find delivery drivers which NCPA claims is a "big problem now that most local pharmacies expanded that service during the COVID-19 crisis. More than 13 percent are running into a wall trying to hire staff pharmacists to handle prescriptions and patients."

The same study found the labor shortage is also increasing the need for hire wages and benefits which NCPA can become difficult for pharmacies. 

“Most other businesses can raise prices to cover the additional costs, but it’s not that simple for pharmacies,” explained  NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey, pharmacist, MBA in a statement upon the release of the study. “Their reimbursements are controlled by pharmacy benefit managers. There is no option to pass along higher prices to consumers as in most other industries. The PBMs are just middlemen who most often get paid by local, state, and federal governments so they are insulated from higher labor costs while the pharmacies doing the work get hammered.”

Rite Aid spokesperson Brad Ducey released this statement to FOX43 "like most pharmacies and retailers, Rite Aid is experiencing some staffing challenges in different regions. Our pharmacy teams are working hard to address high demand for COVID-19 vaccinations and testing amid the nationwide labor shortage. As a result, customers may experience slightly longer wait times for vaccinations. While appointments are recommended to limit wait times, we continue to accommodate walk-in appointments. We are working on a range of initiatives aimed at recruiting and retaining pharmacy associates." 

CVS spokesperson Tara Burke told FOX43 its stores have administered more than 34 million COVID-19 vaccines and 32 million tests nationwide to date. It acknowledged it too is in the process of hiring.

"We continue to meet the demand for COVID-19 testing and vaccinations in addition to providing trusted pharmacy care and innovative health solutions to our patients. Our teams remain flexible in meeting customers’ needs in a dynamic environment, and we’ve embarked on a nationwide hiring push to continue responding to the needs of communities across the country during the fall and winter months when the incidence of flu is expected to increase and as COVID-19 vaccination and testing remain in high demand," said Burke.

The CDC could authorize COVID-19 shots for 5-11-year-olds as early as Tuesday.

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