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FINDING A DOSE: Southeast Minnesota pharmacies vaccinate residents despite rollout challenges

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Young man receives Pfizer vaccine at Rochester Community Pharmacy

ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- With Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz opening vaccine eligibility to all Minnesotans on Tuesday, the hunt for a vaccine appointment has never been more difficult.

One of those places to get your shot is your local pharmacy. However, they have faced challenges of their own.

"It's kind of chaotic. It's cold and windy," said Sandy Hunt, volunteer at Rochester Community Pharmacy. "We gave folks numbers. That's helping a little bit."

Wednesday morning, the pharmacy's Elton Hills location saw a line of people coming to get their second Pfizer vaccine dose. Earlier this week, it offered Johnson & Johnson, but no doses were left on Wednesday.

Finding where to go for a shot has been difficult for many.

"A little confusing. We weren't sure where to go," said Rochester resident Jamie Pfister. "We saw they had walk-ins here. We weren't sure if we were eligible."

While there were no first shots for anyone on Wednesday at the Elton Hills location, Pfister still suggests checking out Rochester Community Pharmacy.

"Look at these little community pharmacies and see. You just never know," Pfister said. "You might be able to get in faster than you would normally be called."

As of Tuesday, anyone over 16 is now eligible to get the vaccine and there are plenty of places to get it from. However, how much vaccine is going to each pharmacy can be unpredictable.

"We were expecting vaccine last week and we didn't get any," Hart said. "We never know what we're getting and when we're getting it."

"I agree. It's very unpredictable," said Philip Hommerding, owner and pharmacist at Hunt's Silver Lake Drug.

Hunt's Pharmacy is offering the vaccine on a first-come, first-serve basis.

"We're taking it as it comes and letting people know it may be a week or two before we get to them," Hommerding said. "We're going to do our best to get to them as soon as we can."

Other pharmacies are hoping to finish vaccinating those left in the first groups.

"We are prioritizing older or sick people as product comes in," said Mike Brengman, Zumbrota Hy-Vee Healthmarket Pharmacy supervisor.

The amount of product is still is not matching demand. Pharmacies are also having to balance vaccinating people with other daily operations.

"Very busy," Brengman said. "We get vaccine coming in and it goes out right away."

"We got 100 doses on Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) on Monday and they're all gone now," Hommerding said.

While pharmacists do advise you to look at different places to get your name of the list, they do not want you to wait for a specific brand of vaccine.

"Unfortunately they have," Hart said. "I just maintain and reiterate what the CDC says. The best vaccine to get is the one in your arm."

Those who are fully vaccinated agree with Hart.

"It's a change of mindset," Pfister said with a smile. "There's an end in sight here."

Rochester Community Pharmacy advises people to check back with them on Tuesday morning to see if they receive doses for next week.

Alex Tejada

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