‘It was bedlam’: Local pharmacy sees surge in COVID booster appointments

GASTONIA, N.C. — Area pharmacies are experiencing a boom in appointments for COVID-19 booster shots since all three vaccines recently received the green light.

The Food and Drug Administration Advisory Panel voted to endorse the Pfizer vaccine for children five to 11 years old. That sets the stage for millions of American children to start getting the shots next week.

[ALSO READ: FDA panel endorses Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines for children 5-11]

The Centers for Prevention of Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 190.7 million Americans are fully vaccinated, which is more than half of the population in the country.

Of that group, more than 13.2 million people have received a booster dose since mid-August.

People crowded at the Medical Center Pharmacy in Gastonia on Tuesday looking for what doctors are calling a lifesaving shot.

“It was bedlam,” co-owner Don Thower said.

Thower said they administered 110 boosters in one day, which is a record for the pharmacy. The surge was sparked by people like 74-year-old Kay Graham, who got COVID-19 in January.

“It was difficult,” Graham said. “I had trouble breathing. I didn’t go to the hospital, but I was very, very close.”

It took her two months to recover.

Graham got vaccinated and came to get the booster as soon as she could.

“It just gives you that extra protection that I think we all need right now,” she said.

Janice Eury needed the booster but couldn’t find it. She kept trying at the Cleveland County Health Department.

“They were getting booked up, and they didn’t have any opening,” Eury said.

She got the shot at the Medical Center Pharmacy, where the owners have been preparing for a rush, but didn’t expect the actual turnout once word spread that all three vaccines had approved boosters.

People said they remember the surge in new cases last winter.

“Everybody’s expecting an uptick in COVID-19 numbers with the colder weather,” said Graham Sprinkles, a pharmacist intern.

They said that in the past, people were more relaxed about getting their second shot but not now in many cases.

Jason’s Rinehardt’s grandmother recently died of COVID-19.

“Lived to be 101 years old, perfect,” Rinehardt said. “The next thing I know, she’s dead.”

Rinehardt and his brother got their second shots Tuesday and told staff they will be back in six months.

A pharmacist told Channel 9 that he is happy to see a lot of people coming to get their booster, but they have to make progress with people getting vaccinated; only 45% of people in Gaston County are fully vaccinated.

(Watch the video below: BOOSTER BREAKDOWN: When, where can you get a shot in North Carolina?)