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VAMS ‘misunderstanding’ causes confusion for independent pharmacies

VAMS – or the Vaccine Administration Management Service – is the federal government’s vaccine system.

HARTFORD, Conn. — An email sent by a Department of Public Health staffer to the advocacy group that represents independent pharmacies in Connecticut caused confusion for some providers.

The email – sent by a Connecticut of Public Health epidemiologist and obtained by FOX61 News – was sent to the Northeast Pharmacy Services Corporation, the organizing and advocacy arm of the independent pharmacies in the state.

The email said: “We are no longer enrolling providers in VAMS … and have begun transitioning providers off of VAMS.”

VAMS – or the Vaccine Administration Management Service – is the federal government’s vaccine system.

“I believe that the stores have relied on the state system. I understand that the state was using the federal system, VAMS and have heard there will be changes to that,” David Benoit, with Northeast Pharmacy Services Corporation, said.

However, it seems the email was a misunderstanding.

Maura Fitzgerald, a spokesperson for the state Department of Health, told FOX61 News that any reports that the state was phasing out of VAMS are “incorrect.”

“The State of Connecticut continues to use and support VAMS as one of several scheduling platforms. Nearly 200,000 new users registered in VAMS within the last 48 hours alone,” she said in a statement, adding: “We would welcome and encourage their participation in VAMS, and the suggestion otherwise was a misunderstanding.”

It seems the “misunderstanding” left doses of the COVID-19 vaccine temporarily sitting in a refrigerator at Beacon Pharmacy in Southington. The pharmacy began its COVID-19 vaccination clinic Friday.

“They actually have the vaccine in their refrigerators, but they can’t give it out because they don’t have the tracing ability through VAMS yet,” Nathan Tinker, the CEO of the Connecticut Pharmacy Association, said.

Fitzgerald said pharmacies enrolled through the federal government channel are “required by the federal government to have their own scheduling platforms.”

Federally affiliated pharmacies get their vaccine allotment through a separate allocation from the state. Some independent pharmacies like Nutmeg Pharmacy told FOX61 they have never utilized VAMS.

“Right now it’s all through our own website. And through our own stores,” said Jason Navallil, the pharmacy manager at Nutmeg Pharmacy. “We are not through VAMS which honestly is almost a blessing in itself. It helps a lot of people having trouble using that one interface.”
In addition to VAMS, any vaccine provider who is having trouble making residents aware of their vaccine supply can also register their clinic with the United Way 211 system or sign up with the CT vaccine finder website.

Click here to see all the different systems you can use to book your COVID vaccine appointment.

On Friday, Gov. Ned Lamont tweeted a quick video also explaining the process.

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