CONWAY — While Memorial Hospital’s vaccination clinic at the former Weather Discovery Center in North Conway has provided the bulk of COVID-19 vaccinations in Conway, two other sites in town are now also offering the shots.
Walgreens pharmacies in New Hampshire — including stores in North Conway, Ossipee and Berlin — have been administering the COVID-19 vaccine by appointment throughout March, and as of today, the Hannaford pharmacy in North Conway will be offering COVID-19 vaccinations by appointment.
Appointments at all these locations must be made on the state’s VINI (Vaccine & Immunization Network Interface) vaccine management system at vaccines.nh.gov.
As of Monday, the state was reporting that 364,633 residents had received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 215,577 people (about 16 percent) are fully vaccinated. Also on that day the state opened eligibility to residents 40 and older. Today, eligibility is open for those age 30 and up. And as of Friday, any New Hampshire resident age 16 and older will be eligible to get the vaccine.
Earlier this month, Walgreens announced from its corporate headquarters in Illinois it was receiving approximately 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer a week as part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program and had administered 5 million doses at long-term care facilities; in stores; and through dedicated clinics across the United States.
The company is providing COVID-19 vaccinations at sites in 42 states, including New Hampshire and Maine.
Walgreens has been receiving Johnson & Johnson (Janssen), Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Officials say all three are equally effective in preventing death or serious illness and urge people to get whatever vaccine is available.
Although attempts to arrange interviews at the North Conway store were unsuccessful — a Walgreens public relations representatives told the Sun “Unfortunately, we are unable to arrange interviews or in-store photo/video opportunities at this time” — the response from the local community has been positive.
Retired Bartlett Police Chief Hadley Champlin said she got her vaccination at the North Conway Walgreens and said the process was very efficient, taking only 10-15 minutes for the staff to review medical questions with her and enter information into a computer.
A space is set aside in a space off the pharmacy for people to receive their shots privately. They are then asked to wait before they leave, usually for 15 minutes, to make sure there are no side effects.
“It was an excellent experience. It was simple and it was painless. Hopefully everyone who is able to get the vaccine is getting vaccinated. It’s very important for public health and safety,” Champlin said.
Jamie Gemmiti, former Sun photographer, also got his vaccine at Walgreens and said the process went smoothly.
“There was no line. It was like going to get a regular prescription,” he said. “They seemed to go a little beyond, even though they seemed tired. It’s just crazy days for everyone.”
Responding to a shout-out for feedback on Walgreens that the Sun posted on Facebook, Scott Ross said he received his first dose at Walgreens in North Conway, adding, “Pharmacy staff was friendly and courteous. Relatively short wait and they had a good system down. I know many people that have been vaccinated at Walgreens and I have heard no complaints."
David Hausman, owner of Big Dave’s Bagels in North Conway said: “My wife and I had as pleasant an experience as a vaccination could be.”
Gloria Tibbetts was able to move up her scheduled appointment when she was called by a Walgreens pharmacist. “She had an extra dose and asked if would I like it. I had my first one Feb. 20, the second one March 21."
Mark Anthony said: “I can tell you first hand that the Walgreens Team in North Conway is doing so much with so little. Vaccinations aside, they are out straight daily just trying to keep up with everyday business, add in the hundreds of appointments the state sends to them for COVID shots, NO EXTRA HELP, some rude people and higher than normal stress levels. I’d say this team is knocking it out of the park!”
Walgreens is also offering COVID-19 vaccinations in Maine, with the closest stores being in Bridgton and Naples. Eligible Mainers can sign up on the Walgreens website at walgreens.com/schedulevaccine.
Meanwhile, staff at the Hannaford pharmacy in North Conway have been busy preparing to begin vaccinating people today.
North Conway Hannaford Pharmacy Manager Anna Haley said the state gave the go-ahead last Friday.
She expects the pharmacy to get 100 doses of Moderna vaccine per week, with appointments offered between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. The pharmacist, technicians and an intern are all trained and able to give the shots.
Hannaford along with Walgreens receives batches of COVID-19 vaccines through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.
Haley said this week’s appointments filled up quickly. Anyone interested in getting their shot at Hannaford must sign up through VINI, the state system.
She said a divider is being set up in the pharmacy waiting area to provide privacy screen for the vaccination.
People are asked to show up promptly at the time of their appointment.
“We want to try to keep everyone socially distanced,” Haley said.
People can expect to take about 15 minutes to go over paperwork and any health questions or concerns before getting the shot, then 15-30 minutes after getting the shot depending on their health history, to make sure they don’t have an allergic reaction to the shot.
Haley said she expects things to go smoothly with the vaccinations but added, “If things are taking longer than anticipated, I hope people can have some patience with us.”