Why are COVID booster shots hard to find in the Bay Area?

(KRON) – Some people are having a hard time getting an appointment for the COVID booster shot. Pharmacies like CVS are reporting a supply problem.

During the peak of the pandemic, officials begged people to get the COVID vaccine, and now people are struggling to get the latest booster. KRON4 spoke with a UCSF doctor who says it’s because there is a shift in who is responsible for supplying and paying for people to get the vaccine. 

When KRON4 looked up booster appointments on the CVS website for a San Francisco pharmacy, we were directed to a location in Colma, in San Mateo County. It said no time slots were available.

A CVS spokesperson told KRON4 that its pharmacies are receiving the vaccine on a rolling basis, but they are experiencing supplier delivery delays. Walgreens did not reply in time for this report.

UCSF’s Dr. Peter Chin-Hong explains why it hasn’t been as easy to get the shot at your local pharmacy.

“There is a shift in vaccine distribution from the government sector to the private sector, and because we have a patchwork of healthcare delivery in this country, that’s what people are encountering,” he said. 

Dr. Chin-Hong says he’s confident the boosters will become more accessible in the coming weeks, but he worries any hurdle could deter people from getting the vaccine before cases surge this holiday season. He advises everyone to not give up.

“I think any barrier would be a disincentive to get such an important intervention,” he said. “If you’re told one thing this week, please try again next week because this is a rapidly evolving situation. Just like we have seen before even when the government was paying for everything for the other vaccines. It’s always bumpy in the beginning.”

Health experts suggest people get both the booster and the flu shot at the same time and to do so before Halloween.

“It will give you the best artillery during the winter surge because again it’s strongest right after you get it,” he said. “For those who are older or immunocompromised, I would advise them to get it as soon as they can, but not to panic. There is the get-out-of-jail-free card with Paxlovid. Even if you get infected it’ll help keep you out of the hospital.”

Everyone should have access to the vaccine for free, even if they don’t have insurance. You can also look up appointments HERE.

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