Local pharmacy trying to bridge income and racial gaps in vaccine distribution

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — As soon as word got out that Panama Pharmacy received a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines, appointments filled within minutes.

But owner Kevin Duane said he noticed some people who scored a slot were from as far away as Green Cove Springs, which is nearly 35 miles from the pharmacy.

“It was a lot of our community, but it was a lot of people from all over,” Duane said.

QUICK LINKS: How to make a COVID-19 vaccine appointment in the Jacksonville area

The vaccines were meant for the nearby low-income community and while many did get a vaccine, others were left behind.

“Very early on fielded a lot of calls from people that said ‘hey I don’t have a computer, I don’t have internet at home’, had a few people tell me they weren’t able to read or understand the application form,” Duane said.

The problem was clear. So, Duane went to the store and bought nearly every tablet available to keep them at his pharmacy to help those without access to the internet.

“We were assigning multiple full-time positions just to navigate help people navigate through the website,” Duane said.

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Right now, more than 1,000 people have added their names to a waiting list for whenever Panama Pharmacy gets more doses.

“Will be ready to help people sign up whether it’s at their home or in the store we’ll be ready,” Duane said.

He’s hoping these tablets, and his helpful staff can start to bridge the gaps because your zip code or access to a computer should not matter when it comes to getting a life-saving vaccine.

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