HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Independent pharmacies across South Carolina are preparing to distribute COVID-19 vaccines.
“With it getting into independent hands, the community is now going to have a chance to go to their trusted provider,” Cherry Grove Drug owner and pharmacist Jenna Dukes said.
They, along with 124 other independent pharmacies statewide, are receiving the newly approved single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Dukes said they’re still sorting out the details, but they think independents will play a key role in the vaccine process.
“From a customer perspective, I think they would prefer to go to their local pharmacy to get it, because that’s who they trust. If you go to your flu shot, you go to your local pharmacist. If you’re gonna get a tetanus vaccine, or a pertussis vaccine because you have a new grandbaby, you’re gonna go to your local pharmacist because that’s who you’re comfortable with,” Dukes said.
The pharmacies don’t have the doses yet, so in the meantime, Dukes is getting ready.
“We’re gonna have to do some logistic work to figure out how we can maintain normal business. It’s either gonna be an after-hours-like a Saturday clinic, where we’d only do appointments that day, or where we’ll structure it to fit it in with everything else,” she said.
The state Department of Health and Environmental Control just opened it up to independent pharmacies this week. Officials said their goal is to better bring the doses to where people are, including many rural communities, where local pharmacies are residents’ go-to providers.
Right now, doses are expected to be very limited.
At Ocean Lakes Pharmacy in Surfside Beach, pharmacist Joe Schockley said they’ve been a staple in the community since the 1970s. When the vaccine became available, he knew he wanted to provide it.
“We applied the first day the application process was open. We care about our customers,. They’re more than just a number to us; they’re like our family,” he said.
With the one-dose shot, both pharmacists said it’ll make scheduling easier.
“It’ll be an easier process for the customer. They don’t have to worry about maintaining that second vaccine,” Dukes said.
Cherry Grove Drug isn’t taking appointments just yet. They have a form on their website you can fill out in order to get information and updates.
“We want to make sure, it’s here, we have it, it’s accounted for, we’re ready to go before we even begin any kind of appointment process,” Dukes said.
Ocean Lakes Pharmacy has a waitlist. Schockley said many are already on it, and they’re not scheduling these appointments just yet.
Statewide, DHEC officials said South Carolina is expected to get 41,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine sometime during the first week of March.