Beginning Thursday, more than 1,000,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine will be distributed by 6,500 U.S. drugstores in the United States by the federal government. Nearly 40,000 pharmacy retailers across the country will receive doses of the coronavirus vaccines as confirmed by Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House coordinator for the Covid-19 response.
Hospitals, health centers, and facilities adapted as vaccination centers have so far been the only recipients of Covid-19 vaccine, but the distribution to pharmacies opens up a new option for those eligible to receive the vaccine at this time.
There are approximately 88,000 pharmacy stores in the United States, which means that about 55% of the stores will not be receiving doses yet. Zients himself cautions that the supply in pharmacies is quite limited and will not be expanded to a larger group of people outside of the at-risk population that has been selected in the states to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.
Zients clarified that the vaccines will be targeted to pharmacies based on the size of the population in each state and jurisdiction, as was previously done with hospitals, clinics, and other vaccination centers in the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working closely with the states to select pharmacies that are located in the most difficult areas for the COVID-19 vaccine to reach.
Among the pharmaceutical retailers participating in the initiative are CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Rite Aid, Kroger, Publics, Hy Vee, Meijer, Cotsco, Jewel-Osco and Safeway. For its part, CVS announced that it would begin distributing the vaccine on February 11th, while Walgreens will begin on February 12th. On the other hand, Walmart announced that it has 5,000 stores of its Sam’s Club brand “operationally and clinically ready” to begin distribution. The Trump Administration had announced last summer that there was a program in place for pharmacy distribution of vaccines.
With Covid-19 vaccine in pharmacies, hiring of pharmacists has skyrocketed
Maria Suarez, a recent pharmacist technician graduate from the University of Florida has received about six different offers to work part-time at CVS, Walgreens, Cotsco and Rite in her hometown of Tampa.
“A few days ago I got a call from CVS and they offered me a contract job for 10 weeks, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., it’s only 20 weeks at the moment, but they assured me that the contract could be extended longer and I would have risk insurance, the only thing they were emphatic about is that I had to have a pharmacy technician certification,” Suarez said.
With the inclusion of pharmacies as vaccination centers, pharmaceutical retailers are on a hiring spree never before seen in the United States. CVS announced in October that it would hire more than 15,000 people to support vaccination efforts, while Walgreen’s announced it would hire 9,000. Rite Aid will hire more than 2,000 pharmacy technicians, while Korger and Hy Vee will hire an additional 1,000 each.
At pharmacy schools across the country, retailers have begun to advertise massively for new openings to attract recent graduates as they scramble to attract staff through more competitive job benefit offers.
With the increased demand from pharmacy retailers, supply has also increased. According to the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), enrollments in the immunization program offered by APhA grew exponentially from 650 enrollments in 2016-2019 to more than 30,000 in 2020.