US COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Strategy Unveiled


The Trump administration released its COVID-19 vaccine strategy, with pharmacies among the list of suggested providers for distribution.


Pharmacies are one of the key commercial partners that the Trump administration included in its new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine interim distribution plan.

The government’s COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook for Jurisdiction Operations provides a strategic distribution overview along with guidelines for state, tribal, territorial, and local public health programs and their partners on how to plan and operationalize a vaccination response to COVID-19.1

“As part of Operation Warp Speed, we have been laying the groundwork for months to distribute and administer a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it meets FDA’s gold standard,” said Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, MD, in a news release.2 “This in-depth, round-the-clock planning work with our state and local partners and trusted community organizations, especially through CDC, will ensure that Americans can receive a safe and effective vaccine in record time.”

The Playbook, developed by HHS in coordination with the Department of Defense and the CDC, identifies pharmacies as one of the key essential partners of government in distributing the vaccines.

Vaccines should be administered through commercial and private sector partners (pharmacies, physicians’ offices, clinics), along with public health sites (mobile clinics, Federally Qualified Health Centers [FQHCs], RHCs, public health clinics, temporary/off-site clinics), HHS said in the report.1

“We’re pleased that this plan acknowledges and looks to utilize the essential nature of community pharmacies when rolling out coronavirus vaccine administration plans,” said NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey, RPh, in a news release.3 “Millions of patients, in particular those in rural and medically underserved areas, rely on community pharmacies. Including these neighborhood pharmacies in addition to chain drugstores will be critical if any pandemic immunization plan is to be successful, a point we have made repeatedly to federal policymakers and to state leaders as well

The strategic plan envisions a phased approach for vaccination rollout. In phase 1, initial doses of the vaccine will likely be distributed in a limited manner to reach critical populations, as supply may be constrained. The second phase, which sees a larger number of doses available, anticipates wider distribution expansion for a larger population. This phase ensures equitable access for all critical populations and specific populations, such as those at higher risk for severe outcomes from COVID-19. In the last phase, or phase 3, there will likely be sufficient supply of the vaccine and wide availability. This phase ensures the vaccine is integrated into routine vaccination programs for broad access.1

However, Hoey said, leading up to COVID-19 vaccine distribution, “a lot of work remains logistically and in terms of addressing reported vaccine hesitancy issues.”3

“Being such trusted health care providers, community pharmacists will play a key role in countering concerns and advocating for patients to utilize the safe, effective vaccines when available. NCPA will continue working to advocate for independent pharmacies’ participation in COVID-19 immunization plans for the communities that they serve,” Hoey said.3

The strategic overview lays out 4 tasks necessary for the COVID-19 vaccine program:1

  • Engage with state, tribal, territorial, and local partners, other stakeholders, and the public to communicate public health information around the vaccine and promote vaccine confidence and uptake.
  • Distribute vaccines immediately upon granting of Emergency Use Authorization/Biologics License Application, using a transparently developed, phased allocation methodology and CDC has made vaccine recommendations.
  • Ensure safe administration of the vaccine and availability of administration supplies.
  • Monitor necessary data from the vaccination program through an information technology system capable of supporting and tracking distribution, administration, and other necessary data.


1. COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook for Jurisdiction Operations. CDC. September 16, 2020. Accessed September 18, 2020..

2. Trump Administration releases COVID-19 vaccine distribution strategy. News release. HHS; September 16, 2020. Accessed September 18, 2020.

3. NCPA’s statement on Administration’s interim COVID-19 immunization plan. News release. NCPA; September 16, 2020. Accessed September 18, 2020.

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