Some pharmacies denying 4th COVID-19 shot to immunocompromised

The CDC recommends immunocompromised people who initially received Pfizer or Moderna's mRNA COVID-19 vaccine get a fourth dose. Still, some pharmacies are turning away eligible people seeking a fourth shot, Kaiser Health News reported Jan. 25. 

The news outlet spoke to several immunocompromised people who were either turned away or had to visit numerous pharmacy locations before landing on one that was administering fourth doses.  

Alyson Smith, who takes immune-suppressing medications, told KHN she booked an appointment to get her fourth dose at a Chicago Walgreens location and was told by an employee that the pharmacy chain wasn't administering fourth doses to anyone. 

Walgreens in a statement to the news outlet said, "As vaccination guidelines continue to evolve, we make every effort to continuously update our pharmacy teams." 

Pharmacists may not be administering the doses because they're either confused or unaware about the CDC's changed guidance, pharmacy leaders and physicians told KHN

"I don't know any provider who wants to turn away a patient," said Mitchel Rothholz, chief of governance and state affiliates at the American Pharmacists Association. "The CDC continues to make updates, and it's becoming very difficult for providers at the grassroots level to keep up. I can understand why a pharmacist would say, 'Corporate hasn't given us the green light.'" 

The vaccine guidance for immunocompromised people has been updated several times since August, when the agency recommended this population receive a third dose of mRNA vaccine as part of their primary vaccination series. In October the agency said moderately and severely immunocompromised adults are eligible for a single booster dose, making it the fourth shot for some. The CDC in January then reduced the time between primary vaccination series completion and a booster dose from six months to five. 

The CDC had not responded to KHN's request for comment regarding its education efforts on changing guidance to providers and patients in time for publication. 

To read the full report, click here

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