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To Vaccinate Against Covid-19, U.S. Enlists Pharmacy Chains

The Wall Street Journal. logo The Wall Street Journal. 11/1/2020 Jared S. Hopkins
a store inside of a building © Ben Margot/Associated Press

More than a dozen retail pharmacy chains have agreed to partner with the federal government to serve as Covid-19 vaccination sites under a plan developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., CVS Health Corp., Walmart Inc., Kroger Co., Publix Super Markets Inc. and Costco Wholesale Corp. are among the companies that have agreed to participate, according to the CDC plan issued Friday.

The pharmacies own more than 35,000 stores, the CDC said.

The information was contained in an updated “interim playbook” the CDC prepared for states, territories and local governments readying vaccination programs.

The playbook sketches out how Covid-19 shots would get to hospitals, clinics and other vaccination sites, starting with initial supplies for health-care workers and others at high risk of infection.

Pharmacies would become involved during a second phase of vaccine rollout. The pharmacies would order the Covid-19 vaccines from the federal government, which would then supply them, according to the CDC’s plan.

The pharmacies’ involvement would help expand and accelerate the public’s access to the shots as supplies increase, the CDC said.

“Partnerships with retail chain pharmacies and networks of community pharmacists in the United States will increase the general population’s access to COVID-19 vaccine,” the interim playbook said.

A CVS spokesman said the company has been working with the U.S. government on Covid-19 vaccine-distribution plans but declined to provide specifics, while a Walgreens spokesman declined to comment.

The other pharmacy chains didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The government would provide the vaccines to the pharmacies free of charge. The government has said that vaccines will be free of charge to patients, though a person might have to pay a fee for the shot’s administration.

The companies must sign agreements with the federal government detailing locations of their pharmacies and the capacity of each to store vaccines at subzero temperatures. The pharmacies must report daily to the CDC how many doses each store location orders and has on hand.

U.S. regulators haven’t approved any Covid-19 vaccines but several are in late-stage testing.

Government officials and planning documents had earlier indicated that pharmacies would play some kind of role in vaccine distribution but have provided few details. Last week, the government said CVS and Walgreens would help with administering vaccines at long-term care facilities.

Under the plan, states have a say in whether pharmacies participate in the program. The states would have the authority to prevent pharmacies within their borders from getting vaccines directly from the federal government.

Pharmacies that aren’t part of the program could still participate with Covid-19 vaccination and should work with local officials to do so, according to the CDC.

Write to Jared S. Hopkins at


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