USA TODAY International Edition

CVS, Walgreens to start vaccinatio­ns

Supply limited yet chains can help speed process

- Nathan Bomey

Within days, you might be able to get a vaccine from your local pharmacy.

After weeks of vaccine distributi­on being largely limited to hospitals, health systems and local health department­s, COVID- 19 vaccines are poised to roll out at major pharmacies throughout the country, including the nation’s two largest chains, CVS and Walgreens.

While state- determined eligibilit­y and availabili­ty will remain limited for the time being, experts say they’re hopeful that the nation’s establishe­d network of pharmacies will help speed up distributi­on amid consternat­ion over the pace of the rollout so far.

“I have no doubt” that it will, said Bunny Ellerin, director of the Healthcare and Pharmaceut­ical Management Program at Columbia Business School.

She said that the major pharmacy chains are especially well- suited to handle the distributi­on campaign because they manage flu vaccinatio­ns for millions of Americans annually, giving them expertise that pop- up sites might lack.

Throughout the country, vaccine eligibilit­y still is limited to certain portions of the population and is determined by state health officials based on recommenda­tions by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While it varies from state to state, eligibilit­y generally currently includes certain older Americans and essential workers. Those eligibilit­y restrictio­ns will continue to apply to the pharmacy chains until states expand access, which is currently limited in large part because of an insufficient supply of vaccines.

The rollout is taking place after the Biden administra­tion activated the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program as part of the coronaviru­s vaccine effort, enabling distributi­on to retail locations throughout the country.

In this initial phase, the CDC and the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services have selected certain pharmacy chains to focus on specific areas of the country.

Which states will offer CVS vaccinatio­ns?

At CVS, which has nearly 10,000 locations, including pharmacies inside Target stores, vaccinatio­n appointmen­ts can be scheduled beginning Thursday for about 350 stores across 11 states: California, Connecticu­t, Hawaii, Massachuse­tts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. Appointmen­ts will begin Friday, Feb. 12.

Appointmen­ts will be required. They can be set up at CVS. com or through the CVS Pharmacy app. Anyone without internet access can call ( 800) 746- 7287.

CVS is asking anyone interested in a vaccinatio­n appointmen­t not to contact individual stores.

“Because active stores will change regularly based on vaccine supply, CVS Health will not provide a full list of participat­ing locations,” CVS said.

Which states will offer Walgreens vaccinatio­ns?

At Walgreens, which has more than 9,000 pharmacies, vaccinatio­ns will be provided at certain stores in 17 states and jurisdicti­ons beginning Friday. Those include locations in Arizona, Chicago, Connecticu­t, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, New York City, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, U. S. Virgin Islands, Vermont, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

Appointmen­ts can be made at Walgreens. com/ ScheduleVa­ccine. Eligible people can call their local pharmacy but wait times could be significant. Initial locations with available vaccines were chosen by the government to focus primarily on medically underserve­d areas, Walgreens spokespers­on Rebekah Pajak said.

Walgreens also announced Tuesday that it’s partnering with Uber to provide free or discounted rides to vaccinatio­n appointmen­ts for up to 10 million Americans. Access to ride appointmen­ts will be provided when the vaccinatio­n is scheduled. The company is not providing walk- in appointmen­ts for now as it does during flu shot season.

Other pharmacies chosen to deliver vaccines at certain locations include Ride Aid, Kroger, Publix, Costco, Albertsons, Safeway and Meijer.

 ?? ERNST PETERS/ USA TODAY NETWORK ?? Florida Presbyteri­an Homes CEO Joe Xanthopoul­os, dressed as Santa, receives a Pfizer COVID- 19 vaccinatio­n from Walgreens pharmacist Ericka Gutierrez at the Florida Presbyteri­an Homes in Lakeland, Fla. in December.
ERNST PETERS/ USA TODAY NETWORK Florida Presbyteri­an Homes CEO Joe Xanthopoul­os, dressed as Santa, receives a Pfizer COVID- 19 vaccinatio­n from Walgreens pharmacist Ericka Gutierrez at the Florida Presbyteri­an Homes in Lakeland, Fla. in December.

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