EXCLUSIVE: Hitchcock’s Pharmacies haven’t received COVID-19 vaccines, causing delays in vaccine efforts

Published: Mar. 23, 2021 at 11:51 PM EDT
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NEWBERRY, Fla. (WCJB) - Hitchcock’s pharmacy staff are standing by, ready to vaccinate residents of North Central Florida’s rural communities. The only problem is they haven’t been given any COVID-19 vaccine.

In mid-February, Congresswoman Kat Cammack of Florida’s 3rd district told TV20 that she was working with the state to get Hitchcock’s ready for vaccine distribution. Fast forward a month later, and according to leaders with the company, they have not received even one shipment of the vaccine.

“Our customers and patients say they are frustrated. Just as frustrated as we are. We get calls every day asking when are we going to get the vaccine,” explained Giselle Alvarez, the Senior Vice President of Operations for Hitchcock’s.

RELATED STORY: Fighting COVID: Everything you need to know about where/how to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine in NCFL

However, company leaders are not wasting any time, and they are prepared to start administering as soon as they get that first vaccine.

“We have a scheduling website up and running,” said Alvarez. “We have a waitlist at all of our 12 locations, and we are ready to administer the vaccine.”

Leslie Brown, a Pharmacist at Hitchcock’s, said the relationship pharmacists establish with patients plays a significant role in making people feel comfortable with a new shot like the COVID-19 vaccine.

“If you are trying to explain to them about vaccine hesitancy, and you get them to the point where they want the vaccine. Then you say, well, come back in a couple of weeks, or we will call you. That is not what they want to hear,” explained Brown. “They are ready, they want to go, and we should be able to get them right then.”

This delay causes a burden for many rural communities. Michael Taylor, a Hitchcock’s customer who already got inoculated, said he would have preferred to get the shot at his local pharmacy. Instead, he got the shot at a drive-thru event.

“It would have been a lot more convenient if I could have just come right here into Hitchcock’s and got it,” said Taylor.

RELATED STORY: Cammack: Hitchcock’s could soon offer COVID-19 vaccine

He believes it would be better for people in rural towns to get the shot close to home.

“Newberry needs the vaccine, and Hitchcock’s is the only outlet here in town available. So why shouldn’t they have the vaccine,” said Taylor.

According to Alvarez, they are going to continue pushing the needle for their fair share of shots.

“We have done everything that we can and everything in our willpower to get the vaccine to help our patients and help our rural communities. Those larger corporations, they have the money. They have the connections, and they are able to use those to receive the vaccine before anyone else can.”

The Hitchcock’s pharmacy team is all set up and ready to go in their 12 stores as well as other locations when they get the chance.

Paul Myers, with the Health Department in Alachua County, said the vaccine distribution is a state issue. We reached out to the Florida Department of Emergency Management and have not heard back.

To sign up for the Hitchcock’s COVID-19 vaccine waitlist click here.

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