Is retail ready to distribute the COVID- 19 vaccine?
With the FDA’s emergency approval late Friday of a vaccine co-developed by Pfizer, the nation is now counting on retail to help execute the nation’s most ambitious vaccination campaign in history.
The first doses are expected to start reaching frontline workers at hospitals this week. On Dec. 21, CVS and Walgreens will start administering vaccinations at the more than 70,000 nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the U.S. Early next year, they’ll be joined by Walmart, Costco, Kroger and others for a broader vaccine distribution as supply expands enough to reach the general public.
One early challenge, however, appears to be finding enough pharmacists to deliver the shots. A Bloomberg article reports Walgreens is offering $500 referrals and up to $30,000 sign-on bonuses for eligible pharmacists and technicians, while CVS is making aggressive pitches to independent pharmacists. Both drug store chains insist they’re on pace to meet their hiring goals.
Preparing pharmacies to receive first and second doses remains a moving target as many details of the government’s distribution plan remain unclear and states ultimately decide how to allocate Covid-19 vaccine supplies.
Transporting and storing also present major challenges as the initial COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer need to be shipped in subzero temperatures.
A process must be established to ensure recipients return for a second shot 21 or 28 days after the first, depending on the vaccine. Dr. Tom Van Gilder, chief medical officer, Walmart, said in a blog entry, “It will be important to ensure people return for a second dose of the same vaccine at the right time, or the vaccine will not be effective.”
Theft of the highly-coveted vaccines is also a concern.
Finally, retailers may need to step up as advocates for the vaccine. A survey from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that about half of Americans want to get the vaccine as soon as possible, another quarter aren’t sure and the remaining quarter aren’t interested.
- CVS, Walgreens Gear Up to Deliver Covid-19 Vaccines to Nursing Homes – Wall Street Journal
- CVS, Walgreens Seek Pharmacists on the Eve of Vaccination Rush – Bloomberg
- Walmart is Preparing to Administer the COVID-19 Vaccine Once Approved – Walmart
- Trump Administration Partners with CVS and Walgreens to Provide COVID-19 Vaccine to Protect Vulnerable Americans in Long-Term Care Facilities Nationwide – Department of Health and Human Services
- Kroger is prepared to begin Covid vaccinations at its pharmacies, CEO says – CNBC
- Walgreens Statement Regarding FDA Emergency Use Authorization of COVID-19 Vaccine – Walgreens
- COVID-19 vaccine shipments begin in historic US effort – ABC News
- Walmart prepares to administer Covid vaccines at stores across the U.S. – CNBC
- AP-NORC poll: Only half in US want shots as vaccine nears – Associated Press
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What will be the obvious and less obvious challenges facing retailers in their role administering COVID-19 vaccinations? What questions should retailers be asking themselves to ensure they’re prepared?