Small business on Long Island too overwhelmed by demand for COVID-19 vaccine

PORT JEFFERSON STATION, N.Y. (WCBS 880) — A Long Island pharmacy owner says he was not prepared for the massive lines at his business after his mom-and-pop shop was designated a COVID-19 vaccine location.

“It's pretty bad. It’s pretty dire,” says Michael Nastro, owner of Fairview Pharmacy in Port Jefferson Station.

He says dozens of people have been coming to his pharmacy all week long, some from as far as the Hamptons, looking to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
The problem, however, is that he only found out last minute that his store was a distribution location, and he has not been provided any doses.

“We don't have the resources to handle the masses. We're really – we're treading water,” Nastro said.

On Monday, the shop received 700 calls before 11 a.m. and Tuesday was not any better.

“My regular business is suffering. I can't get through to the doctors. Patients can't get through to me with prescription needs,” he explains. “It's constant. My lines are crippled. I have to use my cell phone to make calls out.”

Nastro said he did sign up to become a distribution center when the state put the call out, but says the demand has been too overwhelming for his mom-and-pop business to handle.

While he is expected to receive doses soon and appointments are already booked up, he tells WCBS 880 that he has already asked the state to take him off the list as a distribution location.

“It got so bad, at this point, I've already asked the state if we could opt-out after we satisfy these doses because we can't handle it, we’re overwhelmed,” Nastro said.

Similar issues have arisen in Nassau County, where Executive Laura Curran says there are massive supply chain issues in the vaccine distribution plan.

While standing in front of Nassau University Medical Center, Curran said the county is seeing more demand for the COVID-19 vaccine than there is supply.

“The supply chain starts at the federal government, so the result for NUMC mean that NUMC has thousands of appointments that were scheduled through February 5th, and the hospital will run out of vaccines tomorrow,” she said.

There is also the issue of some people trying to schedule their second dose of the vaccine at a different location than their first, said Health Commissioner Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein.

“People who make an appointment should be making the second dose at the same place. If people start making appointments at various sites, the possibility of an error increases,” Dr. Eisenstein said. “If anybody that came to the Nassau Community College, for example, we're going to make sure that there's a second dose date and time for them at Nassau Community College with the same product they got the first time.”

Jones beach will be a new state site for vaccinations but, appointments there are already booked up through April.

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