Pharmacy Partners Play Key Role in COVID-19 Vaccine Plans

Large pharmacy, grocery stores and big box chains, as well as some networks including community pharmacies, have signed up to be “partners” with the Operation Warp Speed effort. Don’t worry if your pharmacy isn’t yet included; others will have the opportunity to work through their jurisdictions to become part of the vaccination effort. Here are more details.

WASHINGTON, DC – About 60% of U.S. pharmacies – primarily chain store and networks – have been designated as COVID-19 vaccine providers. The remaining pharmacies will have the opportunity to deliver the yet-to-be approved vaccines by working through their states or other jurisdictions.

 “Through the partnerships with network administrators, independent pharmacies and regional chains will also be part of the federal pharmacy program, further increasing access to vaccine across the country—particularly in traditionally underserved areas,” the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services notes in a press release.

“We are leveraging the existing private sector infrastructure to get safe and effective vaccines supported by Operation Warp Speed into communities and into arms as quickly as possible with no out-of-pocket costs,” added HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “The vast majority of Americans live within five miles of a pharmacy, and our new agreement with pharmacy partners across America is a critical step toward making sure all Americans have access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines when they are available.”

Public health officials point out that pharmacists, pharmacy interns, and pharmacy technicians provide vaccinations in retail and grocery stores as well as pharmacies, noting, “Therefore, pharmacy vaccinators are crucial public health partners for increasing access and convenience of COVID-19 vaccines.”

HHS advises that many pharmacists and the interns and technicians working under their supervision are trained to provide immunizations and already provide key immunizations in their communities. The press release also spells out the critical role of pharmacies in their communities during COVID-19, including counseling patients, expanding access to childhood vaccinations during the pandemic, and ordering and administering COVID-19 tests. 

“Since 2012, CDC has worked extensively with pharmacies to improve pandemic preparedness, conduct vaccine throughput exercises, and assess store and organizational response capabilities,” said Robert Redfield, MD, director of the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Through these partnerships, we will leverage established relationships to support our critical public health mission of vaccinating the American public to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Public health officials urge pharmacies not participating in the federal allocation program to coordinate with their jurisdiction’s health department to become COVID-19 vaccine providers.

The first group of chain and community-pharmacies networks that signed on in early November include Albertsons Companies, Inc. (incl., Osco, Jewel-Osco, Albertsons, Albertsons Market, Safeway, Tom Thumb, Star Market, Shaws, Haggen, Acme, Randalls, Carrs, Market Street, United, Vons, Pavilions, Amigos, Lucky’s, Pak n Save, Sav-On); Costco Wholesale Corp.;CPESN USA, LLC; CVS Pharmacy, Inc. (incl. Long’s); Good Neighbor Pharmacy and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation’s PSAO, Elevate Provider; Health Mart Systems, Inc.;H-E-B, LP; Hy-Vee, Inc.; LeaderNET and Medicine Shoppe, Cardinal Health’s PSAOs;Managed Health Care Associates (MHA); Meijer Inc.; Publix Super Markets, Inc.; Retail Business Services, LLC (incl., Food Lion, Giant Food, The Giant Company, Hannaford Bros Co, Stop & Shop); Rite Aid Corp.;The Kroger Co. (incl., Kroger, Harris Teeter, Fred Meyer, Frys, Ralphs, King Soopers, Smiths, City Market, Dillons, Marianos, Pick-n-Save, Copps, Metro Market);Topco Associates, LLC (incl. Big-Y Pharmacy and Wellness Center, Brookshire’s Pharmacy, Super One Pharmacy, FRESH by Brookshire’s Pharmacy, Coborn’s Pharmacy, Cash Wise Pharmacy, MarketPlace Pharmacy, Hartig Drug Company, King Kullen, Food City Pharmacy, Ingles Pharmacy, Raley’s, Bel Air, Nob Hill Pharmacies, Save Mart Pharmacies, Lucky Pharmacies, SpartanNash, Price Chopper, Market 32, Tops Friendly Markets, ShopRite, Wegmans, Weis Markets, Acme Fresh Markets); Walgreens (incl. Duane Reade);Walmart, Inc. (incl. Sam’s Club) and Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. (incl. Winn-Dixie, Harveys, Fresco Y Mas).

No COVID-19 vaccines have yet been authorized or approved by the Food and Drug Administration and recommended by CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, but the pharmacy partnership was established in anticipation that one or more COVID-19 vaccines will be authorized or approved and recommended for use in the United States before the end of 2020.

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