Walmart, Sam’s Club pharmacies begin administering COVID-19 vaccine under Biden administration’s national plan
February 15-21, 2021
By Wesley Brown
As part of the President Joe Biden efforts to increase access to COVID-19 vaccines, Walmart announced Feb. 9 that than more than 1,000 Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies in Arkansas and 21 other states are receiving federal vaccine allocations this week.
On Feb. 11, Biden first announced that those eligible for the vaccine will have the opportunity to be vaccinated at select pharmacies across the country through the administration’s Federal Retail Pharmacy Program (FRPP) for COVID-19 Vaccination. This program is a public-private partnership with 21 national pharmacy partners and networks of independent pharmacies representing over 40,000 pharmacy locations nationwide.
Through its pharmacy operations mostly located in Walmart stores and Sam’s Club warehouse across the nation, the Bentonville-based retail conglomerate said it will focus on locations that reach customers in underserved communities with limited access to healthcare.
“Ninety percent of the country lives within ten miles of a Walmart. We’re committed to helping people live better – and healthier lives – in Arkansas, and we take that role very seriously,” said Dr. Cheryl Pegus, Walmart’s executive vice president of health and wellness. “We want to help the country re-open, but we can only achieve that through widespread COVID-19 vaccination. We’re proud to work together with the federal government, states, communities, customers and associates to expand access to the vaccine and reach that goal.”
As the first phase of this program launches, Walmart said select retail pharmacies nationwide will receive limited vaccine supply to vaccinate priority groups at no cost. As part of that program, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) worked with states to select initial pharmacy partners based on several factors including their ability to reach some of the populations most at risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Walmart is encouraging its customers to check their pharmacy’s website to find out if vaccine is available as supply will be limited in the initial phase. More information on all the pharmacies participating in the nationwide program is available at cdc.gov/covid19.
Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies began administering COVID-19 vaccines in Arkansas through the Biden’s administration FRPP initiative on Feb 12. Eligible customers can schedule a vaccine appointment via the Walmart and Sam’s Club websites once appointments are available, making it convenient to get vaccinated while allocation lasts.
In addition, Walmart said vaccines will be available to those who meet the current phase of vaccine eligibility in Arkansas which can be found at the Arkansas Department of Health website. In consultation with the CDC and the 22 states where its pharmacies are local, Walmart said it considered the population density, customer demographics, infection rates and availability of local healthcare resources among other factors to identify many of the participating locations, including pharmacies located in a Medically Underserved Areas, as designated by the Health Resources and Services Administration.
Walmart said it is partnering with the CDC and states to move as quickly as possible to help administer vaccines to eligible populations in participating states. For a list of stores in each state administering the vaccine under the federal agreement, visit www.corporate.walmart.com/covid-vaccine.
In addition to the 22 states where Walmart will support the vaccination efforts as part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, the retailer is also currently administering vaccinations under the jurisdiction allocation in 11 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
As noted, vaccine supply and eligibility will vary based on state and local guidelines. In addition to appointments, the scheduler will provide a digital reminder when it is time to return for the second vaccine, which is why customers are asked to create a profile, helping to ensure customers receive the second dose of the vaccine in the timeframe required. You do not have to be a member of Sam’s Club to sign-up for an appointment. Appointments are available seven days a week, but exact timing will vary based on local availability of the vaccine.
Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies will continue to support states and the federal government to help increase the accessibility and availability of COVID-19 vaccines. To stay up to date on how Walmart and Sam’s Club are supporting the vaccine rollout, visit https://corporate.walmart.com/covid-vaccine.
In addition to Walmart, Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens has also been by the Biden administration to participate in the FRPP initiative to provide a limited number of COVID-19 vaccinations across 15 states and jurisdictions. Vaccinations will begin in stores Feb. 12 in Walgreens stories to eligible individuals based on state and jurisdiction guidelines, and may include healthcare workers, people age 65 and older, and individuals with pre-existing conditions.
“Walgreens was one of the first pharmacies to begin administering COVID-19 vaccinations in December to long-term care facility staff and residents, and we look forward to leveraging our experience to support the federal government and CDC in expanding access to these vaccines,” said Walgreens President John Standley. “Our pharmacy teams have already provided nearly two million COVID-19 vaccinations and stand ready with their expertise to help educate and vaccinate additional Americans, including those in rural and underserved communities.”
The CDC selected Walgreens as a pharmacy partner in specific states and jurisdictions to optimize vaccine access in medically underserved areas and areas with a high social vulnerability index score. A defined number of vaccine doses will be allocated from the CDC directly to Walgreens in each geography. Those states and local jurisdictions include the Chicago and New York City metropolitan area, along with Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York North Carolina, Puerto Rico, Vermont, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
In addition to supporting distribution of federal vaccine allocation, Walgreens is also assisting several states and jurisdictions, including Arkansas with administration of COVID-19 vaccines in select stores to eligible populations. Walgreens has administered over 300,000 vaccinations through these efforts to date, officials said, as determined by state and jurisdiction guidelines. Areas include: Arkansas, California (select counties), Connecticut, Chicago, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa (select counties), Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, New York City, Ohio, Puerto Rico, South Carolina and Texas.
Walgreens said it has also partnered with Uber to work with local communities to barriers to health equity through education, access and technology. As part of their partnership, Walgreens and Uber will make it easier to connect people with vaccine appointments and provide free transportation to the pharmacy chain’s vaccine clinics in underserved and vulnerable communities that have been hard-hit by the pandemic.
“By combining Walgreens deep experience in community care with Uber’s transportation technology and logistics expertise, we will take bold action to address vaccine access and hesitancy among those hit hardest by the pandemic,” said Standley.
“Transportation should never be a barrier to health care. We look forward to building on this exciting new partnership with Walgreens, harnessing the power of the Uber platform to help connect more people with vaccines, as we all work together to help end this pandemic,” said Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.
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Arkansas’ vaccination plan enters Phase 1-B with over 400,000 shots given
Under Arkansas namesake COVID-19 Vaccination Program, state health officials would prioritize populations that would receive the vaccine first in three phases. Under a Phase I-A that started about a week before Christmas, the first group to receive the vaccine included health care personnel likely to be exposed to patients with COVID-19. That group include healthcare workers in hospitals, home health care, primary care clinics, dialysis treatment centers, long-term care facilities, plasma and blood donation workers, public health nurses, school and university health clinics, and ADH local health units.
Also, health care workers providing testing or vaccinations for COVID-19, first responders and emergency preparedness workers, and essential government leaders were also administered initial doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in the initial stages.
In the current Phase 1-B of the state’s plan, state health officials are targeting people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, including minority populations, those with underlying medical conditions, and people 65 years or older. That plan would also target local daycare workers, employees at correction facilities, K-12 teachers and staff, law enforcement, laborers in the state’s poultry and meatpacking industry, and other government personnel.
In Phase 2, as increased supplies of the vaccine are available, COVID-19 shots would be expanded to all Phase 1 population not previously covered in health care settings such as doctor’s offices, dental clinics, and pharmacies. Next in line would be critical workers in utilities services, transportation, and local grocery stores, followed by workers at food manufacturing plants, nursing homes, and state universities.
As vaccine supplies continued to grow and demand for COVID-19 shots slowed, state health care officials would expand the inoculation network in Phase 3 to target hard-to-reach populations, the homeless and areas with low uptake rates to reach those wary of vaccines or getting shots.
After the state’s distribution plan was finalize nearly a month ago, Gov. Hutchinson named Colonel Robert Ator, a retired Air Force Wing Commander, to serve as project manager for the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. Ator is now managing the logistics related to vaccine distribution and serves as liaison to other state agencies to assist with sharing information and data collection.
Under the Biden administration’s reconfigured COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, Arkansas would receive about 1.5 million does per week to administer the two-dose serum to just over 3 million Arkansans that live across 75 mostly rural counties. Since the first COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. arrived in Arkansas on Dec. 14, there have been more than 651,000 doses received and allocated by the state of Arkansas, and about 392,000 people given shots.
Nearly 50,000 doses have been received by Walgreens for distribution in Arkansas with nearly 21,000 people receiving the vaccine. Altogether, a total of 413,116 people in Arkansas have received the COVID-19 shot. In the first week after entering the White House, the new Democratic president issued an executive order for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and CDC to order 200 million extra doses of the vaccines to accelerate Biden goals of wiping out COVID-19 by the summer.
New COVID-19 vaccines by pharmaceutical giants Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca are in the final Phase 3 testing stage and nearing distribution. Johnson & Johnson applied to the Food and Drug Administration on Feb. 5 for emergency use authorization for its experimental one-dose Covid-19 vaccine, which has a 66% efficacy rate.
1. The new Federal Retail Pharmacy Program that started Feb. 12 will distribute the COVID-19 vaccine through the nation’s pharmacy network, including Walmart, Sam’s Club, Walgreens, CVS, and 6,500 other retail stores.
2. Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies will begin administering COVID-19 vaccines in Arkansas through the U.S. Federal Retail Pharmacy Program on Feb 12, 2021.