Small pharmacies cry foul as Pa. health officials seek to narrow who can distribute vaccines

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is planning on narrowing the categories of who can distribute the COVID-19 vaccine. The goal is to streamline the process and get more shots into arms. But, smaller, independently owned pharmacies feel they are better suited to their customers' needs and the commonwealth's plan will take away a vital community link in getting people vaccinated. 

The Exton Pharmacy at Marchwood is independently owned and operated by a pharmacist who says she knows her customers well.

Recently, she began offering the Moderna vaccine.

"We’ve gotten flowers, cookies, thank you notes, tears,"

The pharmacy receives a maximum of 300 doses weekly from Chester County and pharmacist Mary Walsh tries to put them into the arms of the most vulnerable.

"We need our highest risk and most vulnerable patients to be taken care of first, because they’ll end up in intensive care," Walsh explained.

"That’s what you do?" asked FOX 29’s Jeff Cole.

"Yes, that’s what we do," Walsh replied.

But, a change in how Pa.’s Health Department will distribute vaccines has raised questions of whether small providers like Exton will continue to give shots.


Faced with criticism over its vaccine rollout, the commonwealth health department says it will slash the number of vaccine providers from 1,700 to between 200 or 300 with an apparent focus on larger providers.

"We really want to hone-in on having those allocations go to those remaining four main providers. Our previous allocations were much more diverse. We want to narrow in on those four," Alison Beam, Acting Health Director, stated.

Concerns over whether southeastern Pennsylvania is being shortchanged with vaccines have risen with Chester County officials pointing out to the state, in a letter, explaining:

"While Chester County ranks sixth in population in the Commonwealth, to date, it ranks 33rd in the amount of vaccine doses received."

State Representative Danielle Friel Otten signed the letter.

"We need to do a better job of driving those numbers up, getting more delivery of the vaccine. I just want to make sure we don’t leave people out who a mass vaccination site might not work for," Representative Friel Otten stated.

Friel Otten says with more doses, the county could open a mass vaccine site at the sprawling Kimberton Fire Company property. But, she doesn’t want providers like Exton Pharmacy to be cut out.

"I think the worst thing they could do is to take small pharmacies out of the loop, because we communicate with patients better than the larger places do," Walsh added.



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