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Monroe pharmacy helping seniors struggling with COVID-19 vaccine appointments

The Monroe Senior Center teamed up with a local pharmacy as web-based booking systems have kept some people older than 65 from getting vaccinated.

MONROE, Wash. — It’s been a battle from the beginning: Seniors have been trying to book COVID-19 vaccine appointments and are getting nowhere.

Snohomish County was set to unveil a new, easier way to book vaccine appointments this week, but according to county leaders, it is just not ready.

“We’re committed to this one being markedly better, and so we’re taking the time to make sure it actually is when we roll it out,” said Jason Biermann, Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management.

It’s a letdown for people 65 and older struggling to navigate the twisted web that is booking an appointment online.

“We are averaging over 50 calls a day from people wanting to get a vaccination,” said Jacob McGee, executive director, Monroe Community Senior Center.

McGee and his staff were fielding call after call from frustrated seniors who just needed help.

“One of the largest barriers to seniors is the online registration process," said McGee. "We brainstormed as a staff and as a community, how can we alleviate some of that, right? Not everyone has email, text, Facebook and can navigate that realm. This is one way that we can prevent vulnerable people from falling through the cracks.”

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His team gave Pharm-A-Save a call, a locally-owned pharmacy in Monroe.

The senior center has worked with Pharm-A-Save for flu shot clinics in the past, and McGee thought they might be able to help with COVID-19 vaccine appointments. Pharm-A-Save jumped right on the opportunity. 

The senior center compiles a list of seniors needing help and passes the list on to Pharm-A-Save, who then directly calls to book a vaccine appointment at their pharmacy, cutting out the middleman.

“I had a lady today who’s in her 90s, she can’t get out of her chair and her hands don’t work," said Toni Webster, Pharmacy Technician at Pharm-A-Save. "So, how is she supposed to utilize any of the online resources? Well, she can't. But she was able to get in touch with them to get in touch with us... so it’s been great."

They plan to hold clinics at the senior center to get people vaccinated, as well as house calls for those who can’t make it.

“It’s so nice in such a dark time to provide a little bit of relief,” said Webster.

Pharm-A-Save has only received a few hundred doses since becoming an approved vaccine provider. They are focusing all doses on people that live in Monroe.

“This is our community and let’s take care of our community first,” said McGee.

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