By Jax Dieugenio
While the demand for the Covid-19 vaccine remains at an all-time high, accessibility remains an issue.
As many school districts across New Jersey are preparing to transition from virtual to in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year, the demand for vaccines for educators and child care workers has seen tremendous growth.
While the accessibility of vaccination services remains currently unavailable to the general public, Rite Aid pharmacy is attempting to combat demands to vaccinate New Jersey educators in a vaccination program that will allow educators and childcare workers the opportunity to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.
With a vaccine distribution process surrounded with difficulty and frustration, many educators found the probability of getting vaccinated to be slim to none. Under this program educators will get that opportunity over two-day-long rollout sessions on March 19 and 20 and on March 26 and 27.
Expressing the immediate demand for these vaccines, chief operating officer Jim Peters mentioned in a press statement, “Teachers and school employees are the cornerstones of our communities, and we truly appreciate all the hard work and dedication they continue to put into educating our children as we battle this pandemic.”
Opening pop-up vaccination clinics, chain pharmacies such as Rite Aid will assist in meeting this demand, offering an accessible alternative for groups that need it.
Dr. Natasha Patterson, a professor of public health at the College, explained how important these chain pharmacy vaccine rollouts will be while describing the potential problems that might arise.
“Pop-up chain pharmacy vaccination sites can help us meet our goals,” Patterson said. She noted that “the key to successful pop-up vaccine initiatives is logistics. How easy will it be to get an appointment? Will the appointment be honored once people arrive? What are the locations? Is it every Rite Aid or just some in certain areas? Getting an appointment can be very difficult, even when pharmacies dedicate days to certain communities.”
Reflecting on her own experience trying to receive a vaccine as an educator at her local Rite Aid, Patterson explained, “… after entering my information and selecting ‘child care worker,’ I received a message stating that I was eligible for an appointment.”
She continued, “There were two Rite Aid pharmacies listed for Trenton. However, when I tried to select one or the other, I received the message, ‘Apologies, due to high demand there are currently no appointment times available at this Rite Aid.’” So this has been the problem with making appointments for vaccines.”
Patterson explained that chain pharmacies release available vaccination slots at specific times.
“Chain pharmacies like Rite Aid, Walgreens and CVS release appointments between 11:30 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. So people are staying up at night with the hopes of getting one of those appointments. They use strategies like having multiple screens open on their devices – laptop, phone, etcetera – and having friends and family do the same just to get an appointment.”
But what happens for those without access to these internet capabilities?
Patterson explained, “This poses significant concerns about access and disparities. For those who do not have Wi-Fi or multiple devices, or are not able to be online searching for appointments in the middle of the night, where does this leave them?”
Offering a final note on the importance of vaccinating educators during this pandemic, Dr. Patterson said, “For educators, safety has been a concern throughout this global pandemic. Educators understand and empathize with the challenges their students are facing and would love to bring them back into the classroom, but want to do so safely.”
She continued, “Getting vaccinated is one way to stay safe and keep their communities safe. The goal is to be efficient, effective and equitable when distributing the vaccine. With that being said, Rite Aid having a vaccine initiative specifically for educators and child care workers sounds like a wonderful idea.”