A mistake in the number of COVID-19 vaccines received last week contributed to a spike in more people who got doses in Island County.
Instead of getting 200 doses, Island Drug received 2,000 on Feb. 1.
Director of Operations Andy Plumlee said the pharmacy was told it would only receive 200 vaccines, even though it had made the request for a much bigger number.
When the error was discovered and reported to the state, Island Drug was instructed not to send the doses back.
Instead, it was required to use up all 2,000. State policy, Plumlee explained, requires that 95 percent of any vaccines received must be administered within seven days.
As a result, the Oak Harbor pharmacy managed to give enough shots to use up the supply by Feb. 4.
“Our goal was to report to the state that we exhausted all 2,000 vaccines in the hope that they would send more to us,” Plumlee said, but added that it’s likely a mistake that won’t happen again anytime soon.
Island Drug’s reaction to the vaccine surplus garnered a variety of reactions, most of which happened via social media.
Some criticized the pharmacy’s handling of the situation, which rewarded some walk-ins with a vaccine even if they didn’t have an appointment set for that week, and many people who did have appointments were out of luck.
Plumlee repeatedly said he understood the frustration.
An effort was made to move up as many vaccine appointments as possible, but the pharmacy relied on an honor system that depended on people being honest about whether they had appointments.
If people said they had an appointment scheduled at some point in time with Island Drug, they were able to get vaccinated that day.
“We never advertised that, we never promoted that,” Plumlee said of the number of walk-ins that showed up Feb. 4 and waited in the rain.
The eligibility to receive a vaccine, however, was thoroughly evaluated.
Copies of photo identification were taken to verify if people were of the appropriate age group to be receiving the vaccine.
Health care workers were not able to get a shot unless they proved it with adequate certification.
Nearly 900 people were vaccinated on Feb. 4, with the help of just six staff members.
“Retail pharmacies are proving that they can get these things done as quickly as possible,” Plumlee said.
This story originally appeared in the Whidbey News-Times, a sister publication to The Herald.