October 19, 2020
When a potential coronavirus vaccine likely becomes available later this year or early in 2021, the elderly will be among the first to receive it.
CVS Health and Walgreens said that they will help make sure that vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, receive it quickly upon availability, as both pharmaceutical companies agreed to help provide and administer the vaccine to long-term care facility residents and staff.
Both pharmacies will be working alongside the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Defense as part of Operation Warp Speed, the federal government's coronavirus vaccine acceleration program.
“Today’s historic pharmacy partnership will truly help jurisdictions solve a logistical hurdle and decrease the burden of distributing, administering, and reporting COVID-19 vaccination for both states and long-term care facilities,” CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said. “CDC is proud to be a part of this public-private partnership that is advancing care for the Nation’s most vulnerable.”
The program will be free of charge to long-term care facilities, and both residents and staff will have no out-of-pocket costs for the service.
Places that qualify for the initiative include skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, residential care homes, and adult family homes. The program will also be available in most rural areas that may not have an accessible pharmacy.
Long-term care facilities wishing to participate in the program can begin opting in as early as Monday and select which pharmacy they prefer. Such facilities, however, are not mandated to take part in this initiative and instead can use their current pharmacy contracts to support COVID-19 vaccination.
“Our unprecedented public-private partnership with CVS and Walgreens will provide convenient and free vaccination to residents of nursing homes across America, another historic achievement in our efforts to get a safe and effective vaccine to Americans as fast as possible,” said Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
Both CVS and Walgreens will be responsible for scheduling and coordinating on-site vaccination dates directly with each facility. Three total visits over two months are likely necessary in order to administer both doses of a potential vaccine to residents and staff.
The pharmacies will also receive and manage vaccines and associated supplies, such as syringes, needles, and PPE, and ensure that the potential vaccine is stored properly. They will also be responsible for reporting the required vaccination data, including who was vaccinated with what vaccine and where, to public health authorities within three days of administering each dose.
"CVS Health has been on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19, working across the healthcare spectrum in all the communities we serve and that will continue to be the case when we have a vaccine to administer," CVS Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Troyen Brennan said. "Our nation's elderly living in long-term care facilities are one of the most vulnerable populations. With early access to a vaccination, we can help keep them, and the staff caring for them, healthy and safe."
“Ensuring access to COVID-19 vaccines once approved and available will be critical to saving lives and helping our nation recover from the pandemic,” Walgreens President John Stanley said. “Since the onset of the pandemic, working closely with government and health officials, manufacturers and distributors, and other industry leaders, Walgreens has helped accelerate the availability of COVID tests, ensured access to essential medicines and products, ramped up our annual flu immunization program, and served as a safe and trusted source of information and resources.”
“We are proud of how pharmacists continue to rise to the challenge in serving the needs of patients in combatting the pandemic. We look forward to leveraging our nationwide footprint, community presence and pharmacist expertise to help administer COVID-19 vaccines once they become available.”
CVS has administered more than five million COVID-19 tests during the pandemic, the company said. It’s hoping to administer four million per month at its nearly 4,000 drive-thru testing locations across the country, several of which are located within the Philly region.
U.S. officials have suggested a coronavirus vaccine could become available in limited capacity as early as late this year or early 2021, with widespread distribution to the general public not expected until later next year.
Pfizer and Moderna each began Phase 3 trials for their COVID-19 vaccines in late July. However, Johnson & Johnson’s global and AstraZeneca’s U.S. late-stage vaccination trials have been put on hold after participants in both studies suffered illnesses.