SARANAC LAKE — Walgreens and CVS are joining other drugstore chains in offering COVID-19 vaccines to people over 65 years old in New York state, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can get a shot at your local store.
Walgreens, which has many locations in Northern New York, won’t say whether it will offer the vaccines at any of them.
The national drugstore chains recently got permission from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services to expand vaccine services, and New York is among the territory being added. Both chains’ offerings will be limited by the number of vaccine doses available to them.
A sign on the front door of the Saranac Lake Walgreens on Thursday said, “Vaccine not yet available.” Inside, pharmacist Heather Damour said that branch does not yet have vaccines and has not been told when it will get them. A store manager said the Saranac Lake location has not yet been selected to get vaccines.
Walgreens is not providing a store list for vaccine availability at this time, corporate spokesperson Campbell O’Connor told the Enterprise on Thursday. Asked what regions of New York are included and whether the north country would be among them, he said, “That’s all we’re able to share right now.”
Walgreens’ website says 107 New York stores would get a total of 10,700 doses, plus 18,600 doses at another 187 stores in New York City. Unlike CVS, Walgreens’ website does not say which stores or which parts of New York might get vaccines.
Walgreens has stores in Watertown, Saranac Lake, Lake Placid, Malone, Potsdam, Canton, Ogdensburg, Carthage and Boonville. It recently closed its store in Tupper Lake.
CVS locations in Watertown and Plattsburgh don’t offer COVID vaccines at this time, according to the company’s website. The closest CVS locations that do are in Queensbury and Hudson Falls, but all 27 stores offering vaccines were fully booked as of Thursday afternoon.
For both chains, you can’t walk into a store and sign up for a vaccine. For Walgreens, you must sign up online at walgreens.com/schedulevaccine. For CVS you do it at www.cvs.com/immunizations/covid-19-vaccine or, if you don’t have internet access, by calling 800-746-7287.
When one phones a Walgreens store, instead of getting a staff member you get an automated computer voice to answer questions — but if you ask whether, say, the Lake Placid Walgreens has COVID-19 vaccines, the voice doesn’t answer that question, instead telling you about eligibility requirements and how to sign up on the company’s website.
The Gouverneur-based Kinney Drugs was, until now, the only pharmacy approved to offer COVID-19 vaccine in the north country. It also has an automated phone service that picks up when you call one of its stores. If you’re calling about a COVID vaccine, you press 7 to be connected to a hotline where a customer service staff member can answer questions and set up appointments. If you’re calling about other matters, you press other keys to be directed to that store’s staff.
Like Walgreens and CVS, Kinney asks people not to contact stores for vaccine appointments. Instead they should do so through its website, kinneydrugs.com, or, if they can’t get online, through its phone hotline, accessible by calling any of its stores.
If you make a vaccine appointment through Kinney, your local store may have a long wait time due to limited availability, but you have the option of checking other Kinney stores to see if one of them can give you an appointment sooner.
At any pharmacy, if vaccine appointments are fully booked, people are asked to be patient and try back later.