COVID-19 vaccinations are coming to your local pharmacy

COVID-19 vaccination could take place at your local pharmacy, with the White House announcing it will begin distributing more supplies of the coronavirus vaccine in order to accelerate immunizations. It's the first phase of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccination, effectively expanding the places where you can go to get a shot beyond the current healthcare providers.

Distribution – and as importantly timely distribution – has emerged as one of the biggest headaches of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Though several providers of the drugs have received Emergency Use Authorization from the US FDA, including Moderna and Pfizer, actually getting that vaccine supply to those who can administer it, and then into the arms of patients themselves, has proved to be a bigger issue than expected.

Adding to the complexity is the nature of the supply chain. The drugs need to be transported and stored at low temperatures, and once defrosted only have a limited shelf life before they must be discarded. Individual states have been left to manage deployment, including balancing the needs of at-risk groups, and that process simply hasn't gone smoothly.

Now, the Biden Administration is wading in. From February 11, there'll be the option to be vaccinated at select pharmacies across the US. "This program is a public-private partnership with 21 national pharmacy partners and networks of independent pharmacies representing over 40,000 pharmacy locations nationwide," the White House announced today. "It is a key component of the Administration's National Strategy to expand equitable access to vaccines for the American public."

To be clear, this won't be a way to jump the line in COVID-19 protection. Only those eligible in their states will be able to take advantage of the pharmacy vaccinations, which typically means at-risk groups like frontline healthcare workers, along with those aged 65+ or living in potential hotspots. Still, if those cohorts of people are vaccinated more rapidly, it will presumably accelerate the process of distributing the drugs more broadly.

The supplies of the vaccine sent out to pharmacies will be limited, the White House says, and the particular locations getting the drugs have been preselected. "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) worked with states to select initial pharmacy partners based on a number of factors including their ability to reach some of the populations most at risk for severe illness from COVID-19," the Administration explains.

The full list of pharmacies taking part is below, though it's worth noting that not every one will be active, in every state, from the initial phase of the program. It's recommended that those eligible for the vaccine contact their local pharmacy first to ascertain whether they can receive it there, or if they should contact a different healthcare provider such as their GP.

In addition to the pharmacy roll-out, the Biden-Harris Administration also announced it would be using FEMA money to reimburse states, Tribes, territories, and jurisdictions in the US for the cost of National Guard Personnel and emergency costs sustained during the pandemic. The payments will not only cover upcoming testing, genomic sequencing, and mass vaccination centers, but be back-dated to costs incurred related to COVID-19 from January 2020. It's estimated that this will cost $3-5 billion.

Chain Pharmacies

• Walgreens (including Duane Reade)

• CVS Pharmacy, Inc. (including Long's)

• Walmart, Inc. (including Sam's Club)

• Rite Aid Corp.

• The Kroger Co. (including Kroger, Harris Teeter, Fred Meyer, Fry's, Ralphs, King Soopers, Smiths, City Market, Dillons, Mariano's, Pick-n-Save, Copps, Metro Market)

• Publix Super Markets, Inc.

• Costco Wholesale Corp.

• Albertsons Companies, Inc. (including Osco, Jewel-Osco, Albertsons, Albertsons Market, Safeway, Tom Thumb, Star Market, Shaw's, Haggen, Acme, Randalls, Carrs, Market Street, United, Vons, Pavilions, Amigos, Lucky's, Pak n Save, Sav-On)

• Hy-Vee, Inc.

• Meijer Inc.

• H-E-B, LP

• Retail Business Services, LLC (including Food Lion, Giant Food, The Giant Company, Hannaford Bros Co, Stop & Shop)

• Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. (including Winn-Dixie, Harveys, Fresco Y Mas)

Network Administrators

• Topco Associates, LLC (including Acme Fresh Markets, Associated Food Stores, Big-Y Pharmacy and Wellness Center, Brookshire's Pharmacy, Super One Pharmacy, FRESH by Brookshire's Pharmacy, Coborn's Pharmacy, Cash Wise Pharmacy, MarketPlace Pharmacy, Giant Eagle, Hartig Drug Company, King Kullen, Food City Pharmacy, Ingles Pharmacy, Raley's, Bel Air, Nob Hill Pharmacies, Save Mart Pharmacies, Lucky Pharmacies, SpartanNash, Price Chopper, Market 32, Tops Friendly Markets, ShopRite, Wegmans, Weis Markets, Inc.)


• GeriMed (long-term care and retail pharmacies)

• Good Neighbor Pharmacy and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation's pharmacy services administrative organization (PSAO), Elevate Provider

• Health Mart Systems, Inc.

• Innovatix (long-term care pharmacies)

• LeaderNET and Medicine Shoppe, Cardinal Health's PSAOs

• Managed Health Care Associates (retail and long-term care pharmacies)