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How small pharmacies are playing a big role in COVID vaccine distribution in rural towns: "It's like the Super Bowl"

Small pharmacies helping vaccine distribution
Independent pharmacies helping COVID-19 vaccine distribution in rural and small communities 03:23

"Taking care of patients is the ultimate goal of a community pharmacist," said Steven Hoffart. His career as a pharmacist brought him back home, to Magnolia, Texas, outside Houston, where the population is just over 2,000 people.

He is the owner of the independent Magnolia Pharmacy.

Correspondent Mireya Villarreal asked, "Does it make it extra special knowing that this is where you grew up and you're giving back to your own town?"

"Yes," he replied. "It's real heartfelt."

At the beginning of the pandemic, Hoffart stepped up to make hand sanitizer for those on the frontlines. Now, he's stepping up again, by distributing 500 doses of the Moderna vaccine.

There are about 23,000 independent pharmacies in the U.S., and many are the backbone of their community. Now, they are helping fight COVID misinformation, and administering the vaccine in areas where medical resources and access are often limited.

"We have great relationships with our community," Hoffart said. "So, being able to make sure that we're able to get those patients in on a timely manner, it's a challenge, but it's something we're working through every day."

Independent pharmacies, such as Magnolia Pharmacy in Magnolia, Texas, are playing a leading role in administering COVID-19 vaccines in rural towns.  CBS News

Texas is currently vaccinating Group 1B, which in this state is residents 65 and older, and people 16 and older with medical conditions that could put them at risk for severe illness with COVID-19.

Jane Bough, who got the vaccine, will be 85 years old next month. "I survived 2020," she said.

Her son is an anesthesiologist. "He said, 'Mom, if you could have been in the emergency room with me or the ICU and seen all the people I have put to sleep paralyzed, intubated, you would run to get this vaccine,'" Baugh said.  

Big pharmacy chains like CVS and Walgreens contracted with the federal government to help distribute vaccines, but those chains aren't always in rural communities, leaving independent pharmacies to fill in the gaps, with both access to quality care and factual education on vaccinations.

Hoffart says they're doing 50 shots a day, until they run out.

Bill Haines, who got vaccinated at Magnolia, said, "I called my own doctor; they aren't giving the shots. So, I tried some of the local big chain pharmacies, they aren't giving the shots."

Haines is over 65, diabetic, and hopeful the vaccine will make a swift impact. "I'm going to be happy to be able to see people smile," he said.

Within eight hours of opening up appointments for vaccinations, Hoffart said, all 500 were booked.

Villarreal asked, "Do you feel like your whole career has kind of led up to this point of being kind of the center point for the distribution process?"

"I would say so," Hoffart replied. "It's like the Super Bowl, man. It was talked up, talked up, talked up. That day is here."

Of the more than 377,000 doses given out in Texas, more than 56,000 have been done inside a pharmacy.

Hoffart believes small pharmacies will continue to play a big role, which is why he recently asked pharmacy students certified in administering vaccines to help with the demand.

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