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Pharmacies allowed to vaccinate more people as eligibility expands

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Posted at 11:24 PM, Mar 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-09 23:25:35-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Changes are coming to who pharmacies can vaccinate.

On March 10th, pharmacies can begin vaccinating people over 60 years old and teachers, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday.

Cuomo expanded eligibility to anyone over the age of 60, previously pharmacies were vaccinating people over 65.

Pharmacies can only vaccinate people over 60, and now teachers. They cannot vaccinate any other eligible groups. Cuomo said it follows federal guidance prioritizing teacher vaccination.

“Once those announcements come down, our phones start to ring,” said Ivylea pharmacy owner Chuck Barone.

Ivylea Pharmacy in Kenmore has vaccinated about 1,000 people since mid-January.

Barone said the pharmacy has a vaccine wait list of more than 2,500 people, for people older than 65. He said high demand made them switch to an online wait list system. The pharmacy is booking appointments on its website.

At first the pharmacy administered doses on-site, but has since moved to a larger space, the Kenmore Community Center.

“At this point whoever is on the wait list first, whether you’re 65 and older, whether you're 60 or older, or whether you’re a teacher, we’re all gonna kind of categorize them in the same category,” Barone said.

Ivylea received 300 doses this week, Barone's deciding whether to ask for a larger allocation.

“We need pharmacists and pharmacy interns to actually vaccinate," he said. "Without their help, it’s tough for us to do a greater number in a shorter period of time without having the resources.”

Tops Friendly Markets does not have a wait list. Public and Media Relations Manager Kathy Sautter said appointments are posted on its vaccine site when doses become available.

“They’ve been pretty consistent over the past several weeks, and so we can’t complain in that department, but now with the increase of the people that can be vaccinated, I think it’s gonna be challenging to keep up with the demand,” Sautter said.

Sautter said Tops also asked for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, but has not received it. She said Tops wants to know if all school staff are eligible at its pharmacies.

“What defines a teacher, that wasn't spelled out for us by the state," she said. "So that's something that we're trying to learn the specifics on."

More groups will become eligible for the vaccine on March 17th, and can get the vaccine at any site that is not a pharmacy. Those groups are government employees, nonprofit workers and essential building service workers.

Cuomo said the state expects to see an increase in its vaccine allotment the last week of March or the first week of April, and until then allocation will remain flat.