FALL RIVER – Where can you cop some zinc pills?
That’s what more and more people seem to be asking lately.
With the threat of a second COVID-19 pandemic wave on the horizon, consumers in recent weeks have been buying and stockpiling vitamin supplements that might help strengthen their immune system.
“We’ve definitively experienced an uptick in demand for products related to immunity,” said Christopher Savarese, director of public relations for Pennsylvania-based Rite Aid Corporation.
Those products, Savarese said during a phone interview, include not just over-the-counter, vitamin supplements but also cleaning and sanitizing products.
Out of eight Fall River locations surveyed Thursday — including three pharmacy chains and one supermarket — five had no zinc tablets in stock, while the other three had a combined total of five smaller-sized 100-zinc-pill containers on their shelves.
“Nobody has any zinc,” said Eve Mercier of Fall River, after walking out of the CVS at 550 Pleasant St.
It was her second stop that day in her quest for zinc pills. The first was at the CVS store and pharmacy at 1620 President Ave.
“I had a flyer with a two-for-one sale and a coupon,” the 60-something Mercier said. “So I figured all right, I’ll stock up on it. Only they didn’t have it, so I guess I won’t.”
Mercier said luckily she still has some zinc pills left over from two months ago when she placed an online order.
“I figured, why waste the time looking for it?” she said.
The CVS in the South End at 245 William S. Canning Boulevard that day was sold out of both its store brand and Nature’s Bounty brand of zinc tablets.
Fatima Aguiar, 57, had also gone to the Pleasant Street CVS. But instead of zinc she was looking for D3 vitamins and was hoping to use a Nature’s Bounty brand coupon.
“My doctor recommended it. He says I have a vitamin D deficiency,” Aguiar said, adding that the store was sold out of that particular brand of vitamin D3 supplement.
“Vitamin D is in especially high demand due to its link to immunity,” Stop & Shop spokesperson Jennifer Brogan said in an email.
“All vitamin and (vitamin) supplement vendors are experiencing sporadic supply shortages due to the unprecedented demand,” Brogan said, adding that supply inventory within that category “should overall continue to be intermittent.”
The Stop & Shop supermarket at 501 Rodman St. had one 100-quantity bottle of zinc pills in stock under the Nature Made brand, but no zinc tablet containers for either the store brand or Nature’s Bounty.
Two other retailers surveyed on Thursday each had two 100-pill zinc supplement units in stock.
These included Walgreens in Flint Village Plaza, which had two store brand containers, and Market Basket in the Southcoast Market Place shopping center, the latter of which had two bottles under the Nature’s Truth brand.
A CVS spokesman, in an email, said shortages of some vitamin supplements, including zinc, that were triggered by public demand in response to health concerns over the coronavirus became evident as early as last spring.
It was on March 10 when Gov. Baker declared a state of emergency, which, in turn, led to a series of executive orders either temporarily closing or curtailing the normal operation of many businesses in the state.
The CVS spokesman noted that “in some cases high demand may cause temporary shortages at some store locations (and) we will resupply those stores as quickly as possible.”
Savarese, the spokesman for Rite Aid, said much the same thing.
“We’re working with our suppliers,” to rectify the problem, he said.
Neither CVS nor Rite Aid could say when they expect their suppliers to be able to provide additional, substantial shipments of zinc vitamin pills to the stores.
Some other stores that on Thursday had no available stock of zinc vitamin tablets were Rite Aid at 233 South Main St. and Walgreens at 369 Plymouth Ave.
The Illinois-based Walgreens Company did not respond to a request for comment.