NEW YORK — With President Biden’s Federal Retail Pharmacy Program now being rolled out across the U.S., it is hoped that there is light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. Biden’s plan is focused on distributing doses directly to retail pharmacies across the country and is aimed at meeting his goal of administering 100 million shots in 100 days and expanding access the vaccines to more Americans as the rollout progresses.
Retail pharmacies had stated from the beginning that they could play a critical role in getting the needed shots in the arms of Americans based on the knowledge and experience of local pharmacists in administering flu shots and other common vaccines as well as the level of trust pharmacies have established in their communities.
CVS has already begun offering COVID-19 vaccines to those eligible at limited pharmacies in 11 states — California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York (not New York City), Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.
Walgreens also started vaccinating people across 15 states this month as part of the president’s strategy. “Walgreens was one of the first pharmacies to begin administering COVID-19 vaccinations in December to long-term-care facility staff and residents, and we look forward to leveraging our experience to support the federal government and CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] in expanding access to these vaccines,” said John Standley, president of Walgreens. “Our pharmacy teams have already provided nearly 2 million COVID-19 vaccinations and stand ready with their expertise to help educate and vaccinate additional Americans, including those in rural and underserved communities.”
Rite Aid pharmacies are offering vaccinations in five states and two jurisdictions: California, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and New York City. The chain expects to receive 100 doses per participating store per week.
Walmart and Sam’s Clubs are distributing vaccines in 22 states.
The CDC has made sure, according to White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients, that retail pharmacies are included in the president’s plan to vaccinate Americans, especially his pledge to do so equitably because of the location of pharmacies in rural and typically underserved areas.
Thus far, the president’s plan and his overall strategy for attacking the pandemic has been embraced by those on the front lines and within the pharmacy industry.
National Association of Chain Drug Stores president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson applauded the plan to enlist pharmacies in the fight, saying the president’s action was “another crucial step forward” to helping Americans get back to their lives pre-pandemic and vowed “trusted local pharmacies are ready to turn vaccine doses into vaccination appointments.”
Leslie Sarasin, president and CEO of FMI: The Food Industry Association, also commended the president for his plan, noting that grocery stores, many of which have pharmacies, serve as health and well-being destinations, providing consumers the opportunity to receive vaccinations when available at the same location where they already purchase food and other essentials.