Independent Pharmacies Serving Lower-Income, Minority Communities Report Shortage of COVID-19 Vaccine Supplies

April 13, 2021
Skylar Kenney, Assistant Editor

Nearly half of independent pharmacists surveyed by the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) are not getting enough or any doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Forty-seven percent of the respondents reported serving populations with a significant minority population.1

According to the survey, which received 515 responses between April 1 and April 7, 2021, 48% of independent pharmacists report inadequate supply as the most pressing issue in their vaccine rollout. Further, 22% report patient reluctance as an issue in their vaccine distribution.1

“Americans trust their local pharmacist, and they can be very helpful educating people about COVID-19 and the vaccines,” said Douglas Hoey, RPh, CEO of NCPA, in a press release. “Independent pharmacists live in the communities they serve. They are often prominent local business leaders and active in the civic life of the community. That’s especially true in communities of color, where community pharmacists often have strong ties, they and their staffs are part of the fabric of their neighborhood, and they can reach socially vulnerable populations in ways that larger pharmacies cannot.”

In terms of demographics, 42% of respondents described their communities as mostly low income, with 39% responding that at least one-quarter of the prescriptions they fill are covered by Medicaid. Additionally, approximately 80% operate in locations with populations below 50,000, and 37% operate in places with a population lower than 10,000.1

Vaccination supplies are not the only point of inequality in the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, low-income and predominantly minority communities are experiencing worse outcomes in the pandemic in terms of testing rates, positivity ratio, case rates by overall population, and deaths. The study examined neighborhoods in Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia, finding large clusters of positive cases correlated by zip code to neighborhoods defined as more socially vulnerable by the CDC.2

“Reaching socially vulnerable patients with vaccines continues to be a key problem that community pharmacists can solve,” Hoey said in the release. “The administration recently announced a dramatic expansion of the number of pharmacies that will get the vaccine. That’s great news, but we need to be sure the supply can meet that demand.”

REFERENCES

  1. Survey findings suggest independent pharmacists are key to vaccinating vulnerable populations [news release]. NCPA; April 13, 2021. Accessed April 13, 2021. https://ncpa.org/newsroom/news-releases/2021/04/13/survey-findings-suggest-independent-pharmacists-are-key
  2. Study: lower income neighborhoods experience higher COVID-19 impact. Pharmacy Times; April 8, 2021. Accessed April 13, 2021. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/view/study-lower-income-neighborhoods-experience-higher-covid-19-impact