HHS to Partner With Chain, Independent Pharmacies to Give Free COVID-19 Vaccines

November 13, 2020
Christine Blank

As part of a new partnership with HHS, the nation’s largest pharmacy chains—as well as independents and regional chains—will be administering free coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines when they are available.

The nation’s largest pharmacy chains—as well as independents and regional chains—will be administering free coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines when they are available, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced.1

The retailers and networks that will be administering the vaccine at no cost to patients include: Walmart, Walgreens, Albertsons, Costco, Good Neighbor Pharmacy and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation’s PSAO Elevate Provider, Health Mart Systems, H-E-B, Hy-Vee, LeaderNET and Medicine Shoppe—Cardinal Health’s PSAOs, Managed Health Care Associates (MHA), Meijer, Publix Super Markets, Food Lion, Rite Aid, The Kroger Co, Topco Associates, and Winn-Dixie Stores.

The new partnership between HHS, pharmacy chains, and networks that represent independent and regional chains covers around 60% of US pharmacies, HHS said.

“We are leveraging the existing private sector infrastructure to get safe and effective vaccines supported by Operation Warp Speed into communities and into arms as quickly as possible with no out-of-pocket cost,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “The vast majority of Americans live within five miles of a pharmacy, and our new agreement with pharmacy partners across America is a critical step toward making sure all Americans have access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines when they are available.”

NACDS President and CEO Steven C. Anderson said in a news release that the announcement “reflects continued progress to put the trust, accessibility and professionalism of pharmacies and pharmacists to work for the American people—including the traditionally underserved—through the administration of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccinations when they are available.”2

“NACDS national and regional members are extremely well prepared, as a result of their hard work, planning and execution and as a result of the education and training of pharmacy teams. National and regional pharmacies alike will be partnering at the federal and state levels in this historic vaccination initiative,” Anderson added.

However, it will be critical to continue to anticipate, identify and resolve “any nagging barriers that stand in the way of efficient administration of COVID-19 vaccinations and other services that are essential to the American people,” Anderson said.

In addition to traditional brick-and-mortar pharmacies, pharmacists, pharmacy interns, and pharmacy technicians also provide vaccinations in retail and grocery stores, HHS said. “Therefore, pharmacy vaccinators are crucial public health partners for increasing access and convenience of COVID-19 vaccines. Many pharmacists and the interns and technicians working under their supervision are trained to provide immunizations and are already important immunizers in their communities.”

Pharmacists are also a trusted health resource in their communities, and have played a vital role in the public health response to COVID-19 by counseling patients, expanding access to childhood vaccinations during the pandemic, and ordering and administering COVID-19 tests, HHS said. “By working with these partners, the federal government will rapidly expand access to COVID-19 vaccines.”

Pharmacies that do not participate in the federal allocation program should coordinate with their jurisdiction’s health department to become COVID-19 vaccine providers, HHS said.

References

1. Trump Administration partners with chain and independent community pharmacies to increase access to future COVID-19 vaccines. News release. HHS; November 12, 2020. Accessed November 13, 2020. https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2020/11/12/trump-administration-partners-chain-independent-community-pharmacies-increase-access-future-covid-19-vaccines.html

2. NACDS lauds preparedness and dedication of diverse pharmacies, pharmacists and pharmacy teams upon HHS’ announcement about their role in COVID-19 vaccinations. News release. NACDS; November 13, 2020. Accessed November 13, 2020. https://www.nacds.org/news/nacds-lauds-preparedness-and-dedication-of-diverse-pharmacies-pharmacists-and-pharmacy-teams-upon-hhs-announcement-about-their-role-in-covid-19-vaccinations/