November 13, 2020
Federal health officials want getting a COVID-19 vaccine to be as easy as receiving a flu shot.
U.S. residents will be able to get vaccinated – for free – at their local drug stores once a vaccine is approved and made available to the public, according to a deal reached by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The agreement, made with major pharmacy chains and networks, covers three of five drug stores across the United States and its territories, according to HHS.
"The vast majority of Americans live within five miles of a pharmacy, and our new agreement with pharmacy partners across America is a critical step toward making sure all Americans have access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines when they are available," HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement Thursday.
The agreement follows a similar partnership made with CVS and Walgreens to deliver and administer the vaccine at nursing homes.
Limited quantities of a COVID-19 vaccine could become available to health care workers and other high-risk people by the end of the year. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's leading infectious disease expert, said a vaccine could be available to the general public by April.
Vaccines must first be approved or authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
Pfizer plans to submit its coronavirus vaccine for emergency use authorization later this month. Early results from its Phase 3 trial indicate the vaccine is 90% effective. The Trump administration has reached an agreement to deliver millions of doses to Americans, if the vaccine is approved.
"Ensuring access and affordability of the COVID-19 vaccine for all Americans is a top priority for the Trump Administration. We are leveraging the existing private sector infrastructure to get safe and effective vaccines supported by Operation Warp Speed into communities and into arms as quickly as possible with no out-of-pocket costs," Azar said.
AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson also are conducting late-stage trials of COVID-19 vaccines.