By Conor McCue

LITTLETON, Colo. (CBS4) – With more Coloradans now eligible to get their COVID-19 booster shot, many pharmacies are slammed with demand while also working to meet other patient needs.

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At Gem Pharmacy, an independent pharmacy in Littleton, the phones are ringing more and more each day. One minute staff pharmacist Jason Strasser may be taking in a prescription order, the next minute he could be booking a vaccine appointment or COVID test.

“We’re working, him and I both, probably until midnight,” said director of operations Celena Owens.

(credit: CBS)

These days, Strasser and Owens are doing their best to meet every need. It was a hard enough task before flu season and has now become even tougher as more people are eligible for a COVID-19 booster shot.

“You have a lot that you need to get done every single day with only a handful of people to get it done,” Owens said.

Owens said hiring more staff would help, but that’s easier said than done.

A survey this summer by the National Community Pharmacists Association found 80% of members are having difficulty filling open positions, especially pharmacy technicians and front-end employees.

One thing playing into the issue is pharmacies can’t necessarily raise prices to help raise wages like other businesses can, another local pharmacist told CBS4.

“All of our pharmacies in our independent pharmacy group with RxPlus, I know that is a big concern right now is getting more help, and it’s just not happening,” Owens said.

(credit: CBS)

Strasser said big pharmacy chains are feeling the pains, too.

“They definitely have their hours that they’re maxing and pharmacists that I know that are in chains are definitely behind the 8 ball as well,” Strasser said.

For now, staff members at Gem Pharmacy are getting by the best they can. They’re also preparing for things to get busier before they get better, as kids 5-11 could soon be eligible for the vaccine.

“It’s chaotic, but you love what you do,” Owens said.

A different independent pharmacist told CBS4 most places will just have to make do and ask for people’s understanding and patience right now. They also ask that customers check the website of the business to answer questions before calling, so staff members aren’t always answering the phone.

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Conor McCue