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Pharmacies struggling to stock at-home COVID-19 tests

Published: Jan. 10, 2022 at 5:26 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 10, 2022 at 5:58 PM CST
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METAIRIE (WVUE) - Bright and early Monday morning, lines started to form at the Shrine on Airline for another day of COVID-19 tests.

Jefferson Parish and Ochsner Health partnered together to bring back the site a week ago, one of several now operating in the metro area due to the high demand.

“A lot of flu going around. People want to determine if they have flu, if they have COVID,” Majoria Drugs pharmacist B.J. Guidry said.

But for those who don’t want to go to a drive-thru site, they test their luck trying to find at-home kits.

“We get phone calls after phone calls asking for at-home COVID tests and we cannot provide for them,” DBS Pharmacy pharmacist Ella Vasquez said.

The store used to have a large stock of kits before Christmas, but the demand was so low at the time, Vasquez said she sold them back to the wholesaler - a decision she now regrets.

“And then the Omicron hit. Nobody has it and I can’t get it anymore,” she said. “I’ve been in touch with the wholesaler and nobody can tell me when they will get it.”

More big-name pharmacies and stores tend to have a small number of tests in stock. The supply issue is a common one with locally owned pharmacies as they deal with the spike in demand.

“We got about 150 a week ago and it sold within two hours,” Guidry said. “People are calling constantly looking for more. We got three or four wholesalers and they’re out.”

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To help manage the shortage, DBS Pharmacy and other stores are putting customers on waiting lists while they hope a new shipment arrives weeks late.

“I want to say it’s been three or four weeks. It’s got to be,” shopper Courtney Flemming said. “(COVID-19) seems like it’s a waiting game. Every time we start to go out, then comes another thing.”

The demand for at-home kits is high right now and experts predict it will increase as we get deeper into the carnival season, which means more parades and festivities.

“Finishing out New Year’s going right into Mardi Gras, I think we are going to see a lot more cases,” Guidry said.

In the meantime, pharmacies will do their best to keep their tests stocked.

“We check every day. We check all of our wholesalers every day,” Guidry said.

“At this point, all of our hands are tied,” Vasquez said.

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