The Biden administration will start shipping COVID-19 vaccines directly to U.S. pharmacies next week, ramping up immunizations as new and potentially more serious variants are appearing, the White House said on Tuesday.
Jeff Zients, coordinator of the president’s COVID-19 task force, said some 6,500 retail pharmacies around the country will receive a total of one million doses.
The pharmacy program will be administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and includes major outlets such as CVS Health. Walgreens Co, Walmart Inc, Rite Aid Co and Costco Wholesale, as well as supermarket pharmacies.
The number of participating pharmacies is expected to grow as drugmakers increase production, allowing more doses to be allocated – and the program is separate from the one using pharmacies to vaccinate nursing home residents.
Drug stores have become a mainstay for flu shots and shingles vaccines, and the industry is capable of vaccinating tens of millions of people monthly.
This will provide more sites for people to get vaccinated in their communities,’ Zients told reporters, underscoring that due to supply constraints the initial availability will be limited.
Zients also announced a five percent increase in doses the government is shipping to states, territories and some major metropolitan areas.
Those will now total 10.5 million doses across all jurisdictions, up from 10 million announced last week.
On February 11, the Biden administration will begin shipping one million coronavirus vaccinations to 6,500 pharmacies across the country. Pictured: Pharmacist John Forbes gives the Moderna GOVID-19 vaccine to Meghan Bohlander, a physician’s assistant, at the Medicap Pharmacy in Urbandale, Iowa, January 2021
White House announced a 5% increase in doses shipped to states, on top of the 16% announced last week for a total of 10.5 million doses across all jurisdictions yo increase the rate of daily vaccinations
So far, 26 million Americans have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine and more than 6 million at least two doses
So far, the federal government has shipped more than 52 million vaccines with 46 receiving at least one dose and more than six million at least two doses.
A priority will be to get the vaccine to minority communities that have suffered a disproportionately high toll of disease and deaths from the virus, Zeints said.
The partnership with drug stores was originally announced by the Trump administration last November although no vaccines had been approved at the time.
CVS plans to begin offering vaccinations from doses that arrive on the first day, February 11
The pharmacy is expecting 250,000 doses arriving at 330 stores across 11 states such as California and New York, reported Politico.
Meanwhile, Walgreens said it will begin administering doses the day after shipments arrive, February 12.
‘Eventually, as we’re able to increase supply, up to 40,000 pharmacies nationwide could provide Covid-19 vaccinations,’ Zients said.
The one million doses being shipped to pharmacies will be on top of the 10.5 million doses being allocated to states by the week.
The White House also took action to help states pay for their pandemic response efforts.
Zients said the federal government will make $3 billion to $5 billion available to states to retroactively cover certain costs eligible for reimbursement through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Those can range from protective gear for health care workers, to deploying their National Guards, to setting up community food programs. State expenses from last January will now be eligible for reimbursement.
But Zients said states need much more financial help from Washington, pointing out that Biden’s American Rescue Plan legislation requests $350 billion for states. The counter-offer a group of Republican senators advanced over the weekend omits that line item.
Data from the CDC shows that so far, 52 million doses, ahve seen shipped
Jeff Zients, coordinator of the president’s COVID-19 task force, also said states will also receive $3 billion to $5 billion to retroactively cover costs such as protective gear for healthcare workers. Pictured: Zients addresses a news conference, December 2020
Some local jurisdictions have started to offer vaccination at drug stores, but in most places that’s not the case. Signs on pharmacy front doors say no vaccine is yet available.
The two currently approved vaccines, from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, require special cold storage.
And, since the rollout began in December, chains like CVS and Walgreens have gained experience with the special handling requirements.
Soon the Food and Drug Administration will be weighing approval of a vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, a one-shot regimen that requires only standard refrigeration.
The world at large is in a race with the virus to vaccinate as many people as possible. Worrisome mutations have been identified in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil.
Officials say the race to ramp up vaccinations is vital with variants from the UK, South Africa and Brazil spreading across the county
The UK variant spreads more easily and carries a higher likelihood of fatal disease. The South Africa variant may reduce somewhat the effectiveness of vaccines. All three mutations have been identified in the U.S. with a total of at least 482 cases.
The vaccine is free to Americans, thanks to legislation passed by Congress.
More than 60 percent of the distributed doses have been administered so far, a marked improvement from just a few weeks ago.
Even with the massive snowstorm that has hit the Northeast, Zients said ‘all vaccine does have been available to the states on schedule.’
But he acknowledged some vaccination centers have had to temporarily close due to the weather.