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Growing COVID-19 vaccine supply allows pharmacies to forgo appointments

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- A month ago, COVID-19 vaccine appointments were hard to come by. This week, they're as accessible as a flu shot. Health officials are reluctant to attribute the change solely to vaccine hesitancy.

"I don't think that we're ready to attribute it to vaccine hesitancy but rather needing to meet people where they're at and much closer to home," said Kris Ehresmann, the infectious diseases director of the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

One of those closer places can be a grocery store. At stores like Hy-Vee, vaccination appointments are no longer required. People can get a shot while on a grocery run.

"I think some people see that as an easier process, right? I just walk in, I talk to someone. I'm used to doing this with my flu shot or my Shingrix shingles vaccine, or whatever other vaccine they receive at their pharmacy or provider. And so this just makes things a little more familiar to people received their vaccines," said Christina Gayman, Hy-Vee public relations director.

Hy-Vee believes this is an important step in providing resources to those who aren't as able to obtain a vaccine.

"What we have done in some cases is if there's, let's say in a metro area, we're still seeing a lot of demand for vaccine. But in a smaller, more rural community, maybe we're not seeing as much demand. Sometimes we're transferring that vaccine back to a metro location where it will be used quickly," said Gayman.

And on the benefit of mass vaccination, officials say the data speaks for itself.

"I think that one of the really dramatic things we're learning most recently is the degree to which the vaccines really are working to protect some of the folks at highest risk, and we see that reflected in our case data and in the outcomes data in particular," said MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm.

Although COVID-19 vaccines at Hy-Vee are now available for people who walk-in, many other pharmacies and clinics are still appointment-only.

Noah Caplan

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