Need a booster or a swab? Independent Johnston pharmacy may be your quickest option

Atwood Pharmacy offers walk-in jabs and tests


Zahan Akbar filled the syringe with a booster dose of Phizer COVID-19 vaccine.

Delivering jabs and testing customers for the virus consumes larger and larger portions of regular business hours each day at the Atwood Pharmacy.

It can be difficult to find a same-day appointment for a booster shot in Rhode Island. Virus testing is also in high demand, as the Ocean State reports its first confirmed case of COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant.

An independent, privately owned pharmacy like Atwood, however, offers walk-in appointments for testing, vaccines and boosters. The Atwood Pharmacy, at 1302 Atwood Ave., Johnston, also offers all three types of approved COVID-19 vaccines: Phizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnston.

“We actually completely ran out of tests last week,” said Akbar, owner of Atwood Pharmacy, as he took just a second to deliver a booster in a quick, practically painless jab. “We’ve resumed now, and we should be good for a while.”

The pharmacy was forced to stop offering tests late last week, after a new wave of infection washed over the region, depleting testing supply stocks. After the arrival of a new shipment, Atwood Pharmacy is again offering walk-in testing, boosters and initial vaccinations.

Waiting times for booster shot appointments, made via state-sanctioned points-of-distribution, can be as much as 1-2 weeks. The holidays have also increased demand for both vaccinations and virus tests.

Last Saturday, Dec. 11, Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee and the state Department of Health (RIDOH) announced Rhode Island’s “first case of COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant (variant B.1.1.529) has been identified.”

“The case was identified through the ongoing genomic surveillance program coordinated by RIDOHs State Health Laboratories,” according to a press release.

According to the DOH and McKee’s office, “the individual who tested positive is a person in their 20s who lives in Providence County and recently returned from travel in New York. The individual completed a primary vaccination series and had no record of a booster shot.”

Facing an increasing case backload, the state is conducting contact tracing tied to the first confirmed Omicron case.

McKee was scheduled to announce a “comprehensive set of actions to address an increase in COVID-19 cases and alleviate pressure on our hospital system while at the same time keeping schools open for in-person learning and preventing economic disruptions to small businesses” on Wednesday afternoon, according to a statement from his office.

Schools are seeing dramatic increases in infections. The Sarah Dyer Barnes Elementary School in Johnston has closed for the week following an outbreak among students.

The Atwood Pharmacy has been helping to provide rapid and PCR virus testing for “close contacts” identified by Johnston School District contact-tracers.

The pharmacy is also reaching out to Cranston Schools to help provide high-demand testing, vaccinations and boosters.

“It’s a time-sensitive manner, especially with parents and children, and with the state having limited supplies,” said Cranston native and Atwood Pharmacy Manager Jester Lippert. “We’ve been working really closely with the Johnston School District, as well as starting to open up to Cranston Schools. They can send their students here for testing. So that we help the community; it’s protecting the students, it’s kind of reducing the stress off of parents, as well as kind of helping us build our brand in the community.”

Atwood Pharmacy rapid testing costs about $35, and is eligible via reimbursement from customers’ insurance carriers. Results are available in about 10 minutes. The Atwood Pharmacy accepts most (nearly all) forms of insurance.

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, required for students to return to school, are free, and Lippert said the pharmacy’s contracted laboratory has been able to send results in about 24-48 hours “in most cases.”

The state has also started “encouraging 16- and 17-year-olds who have completed the primary COVID-19 vaccine series to get booster doses in Rhode Island,” according to a press release. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated their recommendation for booster doses for everyone 16 and older, and booster doses have been suggested to help fight the new, spreading Omicron variant.

“Rhode Island has been experiencing high levels of COVID-19 community transmission since August 2021 and we have seen the transmission rate increase significantly during the last several weeks,” according to the DOH. “With expected new variants, people spending more time indoors, and the high rate of community transmission, hospitalizations in Rhode Island are predicted to increase over the coming weeks and into early 2022. Although the dominant strain of COVID-19 is the Delta variant, the Omicron variant has been identified in neighboring states and is expected to cause a significant number of COVID-19 infections in Rhode Island within the coming weeks and months. Booster doses are a critical tool to help limit spread and prevent serious illness.”

booster, shots, tests


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