PORTLAND, Maine — People across Maine are raising concerns and complaints about Walgreens pharmacies canceling their COVID-19 vaccine appointments, sometimes at the last minute.
In many cases, people are driving 30 minutes or more to neighboring towns to get the shot at a Walgreens, only to be told when they arrive that their appointment has been canceled. Some patients noted similar concerns at CVS pharmacies in Maine.
Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said during Wednesday's COVID-19 briefing that Walgreens officials cited staffing issues as the reason behind the canceled appointments.
"Was it a matter of vaccine supply, which we can help with? Or was it what we feared which was staffing?" Shah said. "The answer that I got was staffing. We are working with them to examine more of what can be done. We know the demand is out there we’ve heard those concerns and we’re working to address them."
Walgreens spokesman Fraser Engerman told NEWS CENTER Maine the company has "adjusted" pharmacy hours in some stores due to staffing issues, and staff is helping people reschedule canceled appointments as quickly as possible.
"We are enhancing our digital scheduler to ensure it better supports fluctuations in store hours," Engerman said. "Additionally, pharmacy and store hours are updated as needed on the store locator available through our app or at Walgreens.com/FindaStore."
When asked what Walgreens is doing to increase staffing, Engerman offered a number of efforts, including centralizing filling prescriptions, providing new incentives including increasing the starting hourly wage to $15 an hour, and offering bonuses to pharmacists.