Biden Administration to Ship COVID-19 Vaccines Directly to Pharmacies

February 2, 2021
Gabrielle Ientile

Starting February 11, federal vaccine supplies will be delivered directly to select pharmacies, according to the announcement.

The Biden-Harris administration announced on Tuesday that, starting next week, pharmacies across the US will begin directly receiving federal deliveries of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines.

The administration also increased the weekly vaccine supply to 10.5 million doses nationwide to help meet the goal of administering 100 million vaccines in 100 days. Since January 20, President Biden has increased vaccine delivery in the US by 22%, according to a statement released by the White House.1

Biden’s National Strategy for COVID-19 in part aims to boost vaccination efforts and increase access to vaccination sites, particularly for communities and populations at high-risk for COVID-19 infection and worse outcomes. Pharmacists are among the most accessible health care providers and are uniquely positioned to help advance the COVID-19 vaccination effort. 

Related: NCPA Supports Biden-Harris COVID-19 National Strategy

The administration created the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccination in collaboration with 21 national pharmacy partners – CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart among them – as well as networks for independent pharmacies, including CPESN USA and Good Neighbor Pharmacy (GNP).

In a statement, Brian Nightengale, RPh, PhD, president of GNP, commended the government’s decision to activate the program early. “Since the beginning of the COVID-19 vaccines rollout, we have seen independent community pharmacists step up in a major way to support their states and the Federal Long-Term Care program to help get more shots in arms,” Nightengale said.2 “We are beyond excited to see the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program kick off and give more independent community pharmacies the opportunity to join in this massive national inoculation movement. We know that this is just the start of the program and it’s encouraging to see pharmacies get pulled forward to support phase 1. We’ll continue to work with our independent pharmacy customers to make sure more Good Neighbor Pharmacy Network members are ready to be activated as the federal program continues to unfold in either phase 1 or phase 2.”

Limited vaccine supplies will be delivered to select retail pharmacies through the federal partnership starting on February 11. The deliveries will be stipulated for priority groups, including individuals between ages 65 and 74 and over 75, non-health care frontline essential workers, and those aged 16 to 64 years with high-risk medical conditions.

Pharmacies have already been designated as hubs for COVID-19 vaccine preparation and administration amid the pandemic. The public-private pharmacy partnership represents more than 40,000 locations across the country, and the CDC collaborated with states to determine the most effective pharmacy vaccination sites for reaching high-risk populations.

States will be fully reimbursed for FEMA-eligible services – including masks, gloves, sheltering at-risk populations, and mobilization of the National Guard – and is estimated to total $3 to $5 billion. Biden has also requested $350 billion from Congress for the American Rescue Plan.

In a statement, CVS Health said it expects to receive approximately 250,000 total doses in the initial rollout through the partnership. On February 11, the retail chain will begin to offer the vaccines to eligible populations at a limited number of CVS pharmacies across 11 states. The company expects to expand to additional states and add the number of stores offering vaccinations as more supply becomes available.3

Walgreens noted that it will begin offering COVID-19 vaccinations in its stores on February 12 to eligible individuals based on state and jurisdiction guidelines, and may include health care workers, individuals ages 65 and older, and individuals with pre-existing conditions.4

“We all know that vaccine supply remains the rate-limiting step at this time; yet the nation’s network of community pharmacies can readily meet the goal of giving 100 million vaccinations in one month assuming such supply is available,” said National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) President and CEO Steven C. Anderson.5

“We look forward to deploying the assets and expertise of pharmacies across America to protect the health and livelihoods of individuals, families, communities and the nation. We are deeply honored to be part of the Biden National Strategy for COVID Recovery,” Anderson said.5

B. Douglas Hoey, RPh, MBA, CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association emphasized the importance of independent pharmacies in these immunization efforts. "When independent pharmacies have access to the vaccine, they are able to quickly get the coronavirus shots in patients' arms. We are encouraged by these efforts to accelerate vaccine distribution, and strongly encourage the administration and state policymakers to fully include small business pharmacies in their plans."6

A total of 32.2 million doses have been administered in the US, with over 26 million individuals who have received at least 1 COVID-19 vaccine dose.7

References

  1. FACT SHEET: President Biden Announces Increased Vaccine Supply, Initial Launch of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, and Expansion of FEMA Reimbursement to States. News Release. White House; February 2, 2021. Accessed February 2, 2021. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/02/02/fact-sheet-president-biden-announces-increased-vaccine-supply-initial-launch-of-the-federal-retail-pharmacy-program-and-expansion-of-fema-reimbursement-to-states/.
  2. Media statement on Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. Media statement. AmerisourceBergen; February 2, 2021. Accessed February 2, 2021.
  3. CVS Health Expands Community Access to COVID-19 Vaccines. News release. CVS Health; February 2, 2021. Accessed February 2, 2021. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/cvs-health-expands-community-access-to-covid-19-vaccines-301220454.html
  4. Walgreens to Expand COVID-19 Vaccination in Stores as Part of Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership Program. News release. Walgreens; February 2, 2021. Accessed February 2, 2021. https://news.walgreens.com/covid-19/press-releases-1/walgreens-to-expand-covid-19-vaccinations-in-stores-as-part-of-federal-retail-pharmacy-partnership-program-.htm
  5. NACDS Welcomes Biden Administration’s Activation of Federal Program for COVID-19 Vaccinations in Pharmacies. News release. NACDS; February 2, 2021. Accessed February 2, 2021. https://www.nacds.org/news/nacds-welcomes-biden-administrations-activation-of-federal-program-for-covid-19-vaccinations-in-pharmacies/
  6. NCPA Statement on Initial Launch of Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. Statement. NCPA; February 2, 2021. Accessed February 3, 2021. https://ncpa.org/newsroom/news-releases/2021/02/02/ncpa-statement-initial-launch-federal-retail-pharmacy-program
  7. COVID Data Tracker. CDC; Last updated February 1, 2021. Accessed February 2, 2021. https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccinations.