June 24, 2024

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New vaccine COMIRNATY® by Pfizer, available at CVS Pharmacy in Eagle Rock, California.

Irfan Khan | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

It’s déjà vu for some Americans looking for the latest Covid-19 vaccines.

Certain people who were lucky enough to snag an appointment for the latest formulation are receiving cancellation notices or showing up to learn there isn’t a dose available for them. Some are being told they need to pay more than $100 out of pocket because their insurance provider isn’t covering the shots yet.

The majority of CVS locations are able to honor scheduled appointments, but delivery delays to some stores are causing them to reschedule shots, a CVS spokesperson said in a statement. Most Walgreens stores have enough supply for existing appointments and more slots are being made available as the shots come in, a spokesperson said.

Vaccine manufacturers Moderna and Pfizer said they have shipped millions of doses since the new versions were approved last week, and they have plenty more ready to go. Moderna in a statement Thursday specifically said it shipped those vaccines to distributors and that it would work with these middlemen to ensure its shots reach pharmacies and other providers.  

A representative for Cencora said the distributor recently began to receive the vaccines and ship them out to customers. Representatives for two other distributors — McKesson and Cardinal Health — did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

The new round of Covid-19 vaccines is the first where the government is not playing a leading role. Previously, the government purchased the shots and distributed them to pharmacies, doctor’s offices and other providers.

Now, those providers are buying the vaccines from distributors or directly from manufacturers.

“This is a whole new territory with these updated Covid vaccines,” said Nate Rockers, who owns Rockers Pharmacy in Paola, Kansas.

Providers for the first time have to consider how many people will want the shots. Now that they’re buying them, they’re on the hook for any unused doses. That could create some delays along the way, said Theresa Tolle, who owns Bay Street Pharmacy in Sebastian, Florida.

Rockers expects the process to become more seamless over time but also recognizes people searching for the shots want them now. That leaves pharmacies like his fielding calls and explaining they can’t administer shots yet if they wanted to.

Tolle said the unprecedented nature of the rollout is creating speed bumps.

“The problem is we have spoiled people who have gotten it because it’s been so available every other time,” Tolle said, adding most people don’t realize there’s a big difference with distribution this time around.

It appears even harder to find the Covid vaccines for children.

CVS said it expects to start receiving those doses late this week and Walmart anticipates they’ll arrive after the adult vaccines come in. A notice on Walgreens’ website said appointments for children under 12 years old won’t start until Friday, Sept. 29.

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