OKEECHOBEE, Fla. — Major pharmacy chains like Walmart and Publix are helping put shots in arms and distribute the coronavirus vaccine in Florida.
However, what about locally-owned and operated pharmacies?
SPECIAL SECTION: Coronavirus
Steven Nelson, the owner of Okeechobee Discount Drugs Pharmacy in Okeechobee, said he is able to store the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and administer it.
"I also have four refrigerators that can hold quite a few vaccines," Nelson said.
The hurdle he's facing to get the ball rolling is that independently-owned pharmacies, like his and others throughout the state, haven't been given the green light to do so.
"We take care of the elderly population here in Okeechobee. We need to put them first instead of the politics in regard to the vaccine. There are quite a bit of individuals here who depend upon me as a privately owned store," Nelson said.
But if they are able to get the shot, Nelson said more people, especially in rural communities, would have more access to get vaccinated.
Michael Jackson, the executive vice president and the CEO of the Florida Pharmacy Association, said they have sent a sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis asking to expand COVID-19 vaccination sites to include independent pharmacies.
"It's being done in states like West Virginia that prove that that using their local family-owned pharmacies put more than 85% of shots in the arms of their community citizens," Jackson said.
The association has sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis asking to expand COVID-19 vaccination sites to include independent pharmacies.
"We are convinced just relying upon a few corporate pharmacies to give the vaccine administration is not going to be enough. You're going to have to reach out to all of the pharmacies that have routinely given vaccines and bring them on to the playing field so they can get the capacity that you need," Jackson said.
For Nelson, this isn't about politics but more about the public health of his community. He said it is the trust they have for his pharmacy to administer the vaccine.
"They know that I'm not just there to make a sale. They know that I care about their health. We're dedicated to their health more than anything else," Nelson said.
The Florida Pharmacy Association said authorizing locally-owned pharmacies as vaccination sites will not only allow people to stay in their communities to get the vaccine, but also shorten wait times to get it.