MPA | Pharmacy News

When Sarah Tuttle visited a Rite Aid with her 7- and 14-year-old children this month, she figured they’d be able to get walk-in flu shots, as they always have.

Not this time. She could tell by the pharmacy worker's expression. 

“She looked at me with this totally harried face and said, ‘We’re not doing walk-ins,’” Tuttle said of the employee she encountered in Seattle. “People peeled out of the line. It was clearly not just us.”

a person holding a sign in front of a car: Drugstores advertise free flu shots Aug. 19, 2020, in New York. This year, an appointment may be required.© BRYAN R. SMITH, AFP via Getty Images Drugstores advertise free flu shots Aug. 19, 2020, in New York. This year, an appointment may be required.

Tuttle and others are running into an unexpected side effect of the pandemic: walk-ins turned away because of staff shortages at pharmacies.

Pharmacies are struggling to find workers, much like restaurants, retailers and other employers facing labor shortages as the pandemic drags on.

Among independent pharmacists, nearly 9 in 10 “can’t find pharmacy technicians,” and nearly 6 in 10 “can’t find front-end employees to run the cash register, track inventory and manage other basic store operations,” according to a survey conducted in May by the National Community Pharmacists Association.

As a result, drugstores are falling behind on flu shots. 

About 11.5 million adults got a flu shot at a pharmacy through Oct. 9. That's down 34% from 17.4 million during the same period in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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