Last week’s exhilaration at the news that suburban Cook County senior citizens and essential workers could begin making appointments at county health clinics and local pharmacies morphed into almost immediate frustration as it quickly became apparent that the system set up to begin this effort was not up to the task.
Senior citizens, many of whom depend on a traditional telephone land line to communicate with the outside world during this pandemic, especially felt betrayed by what appeared to be a hopeless effort to land an appointment.
Cook County Health officials and Gov. J.B. Pritzker continued to call for patience as vaccine supplies slowly come in from the federal government, but on Monday the state also reported some vaccine numbers that were troubling.
This particular angle had to do with the percentage of vaccine doses delivered to the state’s pharmacy partners to vaccinate the state’s long-term care home residents. As of Feb. 1, the pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens had delivered just one-third of the doses they had received.
It’s not clear at what rate selected CVS and Walgreens stores are vaccinating the Phase 1B population, but anecdotally it’s been very difficult to find appointments – apps and special websites quickly developed to help people locate pharmacy appointment slots were so overwhelmed they crashed due to the traffic. If you are lucky enough to find an open appointment, you’re lucky not to be sent miles and miles away from home.
Walgreens and CVS need to step it up. On Tuesday, the Chicago Tribune reported that Walgreens was paying its brand new CEO a $1.5 annual salary and also gifted her with a signing bonus totaling nearly $25 million.
So, we really don’t want to hear about any hurdles with respect to the cost for ramping up vaccine distribution along the Walgreens chain. And we don’t want to see local staff pharmacists simply given orders to step up the pace of vaccinating people to the detriment of their regular duties making sure people have the medications they need.
Hire, train and mobilize teams that can be deployed at pharmacies around the region and state, and make it easier for people to move through the process. If executive bonuses need to suffer as a result, well, we’re fine with that outcome.
Another thing that has been mentioned by some local officials, is that the state could see vaccination rates increase if only they would reach out to municipalities, many of which employ paramedics and emergency medical technicians 24 hours a day, to help roll out the vaccines on a hyper-local level.
Municipal leaders are simply waiting for the call. They are eager to be part of this effort.
Big moments require big action. If there was ever a moment for federal, state and local governments and for the nation’s largest pharmacy chains to rise to the occasion you’d think a global pandemic would be that moment.