What you Need to Know About CVS, Walgreens Coronavirus Vaccine Distributions

Florida Presbyterian Homes CEO Joe Xanthopoulos, dressed as Santa, receives a Pfizer Covid-19 vaccination from Walgreens Pharmacist Ericka Gutierrez at the Florida Presbyterian Homes in Lakeland, Florida, on Tuesday, Dec. 22. Ernst Peters/The Ledger

You may now be able to get a vaccine from your local pharmacy.

After weeks of vaccine distribution being largely limited to hospitals, health systems and local health departments, COVID-19 vaccines are rolling out at major pharmacies throughout the country, including the nation’s two largest chains, CVS and Walgreens.

While state-determined eligibility and availability will remain limited for the time being, experts say they’re hopeful that the nation’s established network of pharmacies will help speed up distribution amid consternation over the pace of the rollout so far.

“I have no doubt” that it will, said Bunny Ellerin, director of the Healthcare and Pharmaceutical Management Program at Columbia Business School.

She said that the major pharmacy chains are especially well-suited to handle the distribution campaign because they manage flu vaccinations for millions of Americans annually, giving them expertise that pop-up sites might lack.

Throughout the country, vaccine eligibility is still limited to certain portions of the population and is determined by state health officials based on recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While it varies from state to state, eligibility generally currently includes certain older Americans and essential workers. Those eligibility restrictions will continue to apply to the pharmacy chains until states expand access, which is currently limited in large part due to an insufficient supply of vaccines.

The rollout is taking place after the Biden administration activated the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program as part of the coronavirus vaccine effort, enabling distribution to retail locations throughout the country.

In this initial phase, the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have selected certain pharmacy chains to focus on specific areas of the country.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Nathan Bomey