State pharmacies struggle with vaccine demand due to staffing shortages

If you've noticed longer wait times for vaccines, prescription refills and more at the pharmacy - you're not alone. Pharmacies from national chains to local mom and pops are the latest to be hit by staffing shortages during the pandemic.
Bridgeport Pharmacy's owner Laks Pudipeddi was giving boosters to staff and clients at the Liberation treatment center on Mill Hill Avenue Monday. He says he's done about half a dozen clinics there since April.
"The aim is to reach as many people as possible, and provide as many vaccinations as we can," Pudipeddi said.
For an independent business like Bridgeport Pharmacy keeping up with the demand and keeping staff shifts filled can be a struggle.
"Help is dwindling, has dwindled during the pandemic. And when you add somebody testing positive in your workforce, they're out for a week," Pudipeddi said.
CVS hired 23,000 employees over the last few weeks as they offer staff a pay increase. Bridgeport Pharmacy's says if a pharmacy tech leaves or has to quarantine, Pudipeddi can't just hire a temp to fill in.
"It's a specialized occupation. Obviously, you need someone with experience and knowledge. So, you can't train somebody overnight," Pudipeddi said.
But even short-staffed, he's getting shots into arms.
"We can't ration vaccines because, as you can see, the goal is, we are going anywhere, everywhere to make sure we're getting the vaccines done," Pudipeddi said.
That means the owner's 40-hour work week is often closer to 60 hours lately.
"You have to bite the bullet and keep going," Pudipeddi said.
With the omicron variant now circulating in Connecticut, pharmacists say the best way to protect yourself is to get vaccinated and boosted.
Last month, some Walgreens and Rite Aid locations in Connecticut had to temporarily cut back hours because of the ongoing staffing shortage.