Pharmacies see big increase in vaccine allotment

(Dion Ogust)

Woodstock pharmacist Neal Smoller’s phone rang on February 26. It was the state Department of Health. Someone there had noticed he’d been requesting 3200 doses each week. Was capable, they asked, of administering that many doses within a week?

“I said I can do 3200 in three days,” Smoller said.

Smoller, owner of the Village Apothecary, joked he initially thought he was special, but when he called around to his pharmacist friends, he learned they’re also getting many time more doses than in the past. Smoller believes the allocation will be around the same or better going forward, now that the supply chain has strengthened.

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“I was so happy,” said Smoller, who had to be tight-lipped about the news until plans were finalized.

Smoller shared this news with us the day after an announcement from Ulster County that its Health Department would be receiving a big increase in its allocation, from around 700 to 3340.

It seems that after a frustratingly slow start, vaccine production is finally picking up, and the results are filtering down the local level.

Smoller’s Village Apothecary will hold COVID-19 vaccine clinics for those qualified on March 3-5 in Saugerties, Kingston and Woodstock thanks to its shipment of 3200 Moderna doses. That allocation is three times the total amount of doses the pharmacy has received to date.

The first clinic will be March 3 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Saugerties Jr. High School gymnasium. March 4 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. it moves to the Kate Walton Fieldhouse on the Kingston High School campus. The final clinic for the week will be March 5 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Mescal Hornbeck Community Center in Woodstock.

Smoller said he wanted to do 1700 doses at Saugerties in the first day “just to prove we can do that volume” and the Woodstock location isn’t big enough for that. He’s planning on administering 1000 doses in Kingston (which is the same location the county’s Health Department uses), and about 600 for Woodstock.

Smoller intends to reach out to members of the community who have had trouble signing up for appointments online.

“We have our volunteer army amped up and ready to go,” Smoller said. “We got a list together with 1700 names of people who don’t have computers, are old or sick. We had our volunteers call nearly 1000 people. They really went above and beyond. So now that that’s done, we can open it up,” he said.

Smoller said now that Pfizer and Moderna have improved capacity, the supply will improve greatly.

“I said from the start, February was going to be the worst month for vaccines, but I knew it was going to break very shortly,” Smoller said.

Smoller believes the recently approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be saved primarily for the younger segments of the population.

Those 65 and older cast sign up for appointments and get more information at drnealsmoller.com/vax.