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Pharmacy chains will help as the nation struggles to vaccinate people

Pharmacists nationwide will have the capacity to administer 100 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine when the supply is available, Steven Anderson, president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, said Wednesday.

“Based on conservative assumptions, pharmacies have the capacity to meet the demand for 100 million vaccine doses in a month when this level of vaccine supply is available,” Anderson told reporters during a phone call Wednesday.

So far, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States has only vaccinated approx. 10 million people and distributed just over 29 million doses of vaccine. States say they are struggling to vaccinate humans, in part because of a lack of public health infrastructure.

Pharmacy chains say they can help fill this gap.

NACDS represents 40,000 pharmacies and 1

55,000 pharmacists, according to Anderson. The group says 90% of Americans live within five miles of a retail store, and the “dormant” Federal Pharmacy Partnership Program could open the door to leverage the capabilities of chain pharmacies.

“America’s retail pharmacies can easily administer 100 million vaccine doses in 30 days,” the group said in a statement.

“This solution could easily be further enhanced as stores deploy more vaccinators – pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, trainees, nurses, clinicians, EMTs and others.”

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Individual chains laid out their own optimistic plans on Wednesday.

Walgreens expects to administer 30 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine in the United States by the end of this summer, when vaccines are available to a wider population.

The pharmacy chain employs and trains staff and increases the possibilities for digital and telephone reservation in preparation for the broader roll-out of the vaccine.

“We make sure everyone is ready to come after this as soon as the vaccines become available en masse, which we think will likely be March, April,” Walgreen Chief Operating Officer Alexander Gourlay said at the JP Morgan 39th Annual Health Care Conference.

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By the end of this summer, Gourlay estimates, 300 million doses of vaccine will have been administered across the country – enough to vaccinate 150 million people – and retail pharmacies will administer around 100 million of these doses.

CVS has even more ambitious plans to administer 100 million doses.

“We are very hopeful that the federal program will soon open and open a more direct distribution to pharmacies across the country that open access,” CVS Director Karen Lynch told the JP Morgan Health Conference.

Lynch said CVS currently has the capacity to administer 25 million vaccinations a month, or approx. one million daily through its retail locations across the country.

“We have a great reach,” Lynch said, adding that the company’s 10,000 stores can reach 85% of the U.S. population.

In this early phase of vaccine deployment, CVS has administered vaccines in long-term care facilities after states have allocated the doses under contract with the federal government. Lynch said the pharmacy chain is just coming up with 1 million vaccines being administered this week in long-term care facilities.

“We can open the shutter to get more shots in the arm as soon as the federal program is fully in play,” she said.

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