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Overwhelmed pharmacies temporarily close amid staffing shortages

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Overwhelmed pharmacies temporarily close amid staffing shortages
Pharmacy chains Walgreens and CVS have recently had to scale back hours or close stores because of staff shortages, at least some of which have been caused by COVID-19 outbreaks. File Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 14 (UPI) -- Pharmacies across the country are overwhelmed with staffing issues because of COVID-19 outbreaks, as well as increased demand for testing and booster shots, and have reduced hours or are periodically closing.

Walgreens and CVS are temporarily closing understaffed locations on weekends across several states, and other stores, including Macy's and Walmart, have shortened hours when forced to.

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A Walgreens Pharmacy in Miami reported on Wednesday that it closed for several days due to an outbreak amongst its staff.

The CDC has also expanded COVID-19 booster shot eligibility for children ages 12 to 15, expanding the number of people eligible to receive an extra dose five months after their second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot.

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Around 5 million kids ages 12 to 17 are eligible for a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

"The ongoing labor shortage, combined with the surge of COVID-19 cases, has resulted in isolated instances in which we've had to adjust operating hours or temporarily close a limited number of stores," a Walgreen's spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal.

Staffing woes have been exacerbated by pharmacy workers quitting due to overwhelming workloads because of regular pharmacy business, COVID-19 testing and now the addition of booster doses in vaccine programs, Bloomberg reported.

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"Unfortunately, we're going to see more people leaving the profession" due to burnout, Oklahoma-based pharmacist Bled Tanoe told Bloomberg.

Some are turning to community pharmacies as larger chains have been backed up for days, though even then delays because of staffing and workload can't be avoided.

"People are figuring out that we are still able to accomodate their needs in a timely manner," Matthew Murray, director of operations for the two-location Customedica pharmacy chain in Idaho, told KTVB-7.

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Murray noted, however, that there have still been delays because while transfering prescriptions "used to be a really easy process and lately it's taking hours, to a day, or days to even get those transfers fulfilled."

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