Marty Schenk receives a vaccine from Brooklynn Kliethermes

Marty Schenk receives a shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from Brooklynn Kliethermes, a practical nursing student at Four Rivers Career Center, as Jennifer Johnson, a school nurse at the Early Learning Center in Washington, watches Saturday, Jan. 30 at the Union City Auditorium. Schenk is also a nurse, working at the Autumn Hills school in Union. 

More COVID-19 vaccines are expected at independent pharmacies, according to pharmacists at Schroeder Drugs in Washington and Medicine Shoppes in Pacific and St. Clair. The pharmacists said they are each expecting at least 200 shots in the next week or two.

The deliveries come as the state expanded its vaccine availability Monday, March 15, to the newest tier: Phase 1B-Tier 3, comprising 500,000 people. Along with this, the vaccine supply is up, with more on the way.

Although Schroeder Drugs and the St. Clair Medicine Shoppe have been receiving vaccines in similar quantities for weeks now, others such as the Pacific Medicine Shoppe have been in the waiting stage for months. Owner and pharmacist Jerry Callahan said the Pacific store was prepared to receive vaccines by the start of 2021. This will be its first delivery.

Local Impact

In Franklin County particularly, independent pharmacies are crucial in administering the vaccine and fighting the pandemic, Callahan and Schroeder Drugs pharmacist Mark Weidle said.

Weidle discussed a recent report by the Kaiser Family Foundation’s COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor research project that found rural Americans are less likely to get vaccinated than urban Americans.

“At other locations, maybe there are some people that are kind of falling through the cracks,” he said. “Maybe they’re not part of the Mercy system, maybe they don’t want to go to the health department for one reason or another. But we will absolutely help whoever we need to help and embrace that role.”

The Washington pharmacy has given over 1,700 vaccines since it began distribution about eight weeks ago, Weidle said. The majority of these have been Moderna vaccines, with 100 from Johnson & Johnson.

Of those receiving the doses, Weidle estimated that half were from Washington, and the majority were from within Franklin County. About 20 to 30 percent were from the county’s rural areas, he said.

We Are Less Likely to Get Vaccinated

According to the Kaiser’s project, about 43 percent of urban and suburban residents will “definitely get” the vaccine. In rural areas, that number is 33 percent.

Another 15 percent of urban and suburban Americans will “definitely not” get vaccinated, according to the report.

In rural America, 20 percent of residents definitely won’t get a shot.

“The issue that some people have because they’re in the rural areas, or the elderly, is that they don’t have access to computers,” Callahan said. “Most of these programs, you sign up through the computer, through the web, so if you don’t have access to the web, you’re kind of left out.”

To make up for this, Callahan and Weidle said people can call their pharmacies to reserve a vaccination appointment. They still recommend that people who can use their online registries do, so the phone lines do not get clogged.

In addition to his Pacific store, Callahan owns four other Medicine Shoppes in Franklin and St. Louis counties. At his Affton Medicine Shoppe, over 1,500 people have received vaccines. So have another 500 to 600 in his Elsberry location.

No Internet?

As of Thursday, 19.6 percent of Franklin County residents had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. In the past week, more than 4,300 doses were administered in the county, according to data provided by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

People with internet access can sign up for vaccines on the pharmacies’ websites, and The Pacific Medicine Shoppe sign-up list will open when the vaccines arrive and are ready for distribution.

People without internet access can call Schroeder Drugs at (636) 239-4707 and the Pacific Medicine Shoppe at (636) 257-9777.

Weidle encouraged all to sign up. “All I would say is that (residents) should try to get put on the list that we have here and at the health department and at Mercy, and check out mass vaccinations that are going on across the state to see if they can sign up for those also.