Walgreens, CVS and other pharmacies will soon start offering Covid-19 vaccines in their stores, as part of President Joe Biden’s push to administer 100 million shots in the first 100 days of his administration.
A limited number of shots will be available to people who are currently eligible for the vaccine, including healthcare workers, people ages 65 and up, and essential workers, depending on the state or jurisdiction.
Up to this point, most vaccines have been distributed through local hospital systems and health departments, though CVS and Walgreens were tapped by the federal government to administer vaccines in long-term care facilities. Some companies have also struck partnerships with states to help administer vaccines.
Now, the federal government will start to distribute doses to be administered by local pharmacies, though vaccine supply is still limited, and most stores are requiring people to schedule appointments online in advance.
On Tuesday, the Biden-Harris Administration said it would roll out the first phase of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for Covid-19 Vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention picked 21 pharmacy chains for the initial rollout, including Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, Rite Aid, Kroger and Albertsons. The vaccines are free, and will be reimbursed either through a patient’s insurance or through the Provider Relief Fund.
To start, pharmacies will receive 1 million doses per week to send to a limited number of stores across the U.S. In most states, just one or two companies will distribute vaccines. For example, in California, vaccines will go to CVS and Rite Aid, while in Illinois, they’ll be administered by Walgreens.
Each company has a different system for scheduling appointments, but so far, across the U.S., many older adults have struggled to book their vaccine appointment. As shots becomes available for older adults, they’ve faced long waits either online or on the phone.
Walgreens said it will require eligible patients to schedule appointments online, and will not take walk-in appointments. Walmart, for its part, has said it will schedule appointments based on how many doses it receives.
There’s still a lot of work to be done before vaccines are available to the general public. Accordingly, pharmacies must follow local guidelines for who is eligible. While they may ask for patients’ age, their occupation, or if they have any underlying medical conditions, they will not require documentation, according to the CDC.
“This assures that no one will be turned away for lack of specific identification documents (e.g. driver’s licenses) and eases the burden on participating pharmacies and individuals,” the agency said in an FAQ.
Meanwhile, CVS and Walgreens have come under fire for the slow pace of vaccinations in nursing homes. So far, 3.2 million long-term care residents staff have received one or more doses of the vaccine, according to the CDC.
Walgreens said it had administered vaccines in three-quarters of the 35,000 long-term care facilities that had signed up to receive vaccines from the company. For its part, CVS said last week that it had provided first doses in just 8,000 of 40,000 long-term care facilities. 
In total, 26.4 million people across the U.S. had received at least one dose of the vaccine as of Tuesday.
Photo credit: User7565abab_575, Getty Images

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