Health officials ask grocery store pharmacies to help speed COVID-19 vaccinations

Health officials across the U.S. are reaching out to grocery store pharmacies weeks earlier than planned to ask for help in administering COVID-19 vaccines amid a slower-than-expected rollout, The Wall Street Journal reported. 

Officials from South Carolina and Georgia reached out to grocery store chain Kroger this week, and the company has been giving vaccines to healthcare workers in its stores and in long-term care facilities in Alaska, West Virginia, Texas and Arkansas, the Journal reported Jan. 8.  

Kroger told the Journal it is exploring ways to hold large events in places like community centers and stadiums where it could vaccinate 600 to 800 people at a time. Giant Eagle, a grocery store chain based in Pittsburgh, said it is also discussing with states how to use spaces like fairgrounds and courthouses to set up vaccination sites. 

Most retail pharmacies were expected to start administering vaccines during the next phase of the vaccine rollout and have been hiring pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in preparation. 

Walgreens CEO Stefano Pessina told the Journal the company is able to give many more vaccines than it is. 

"We could do much more as a pharmacy chain if we had a certain degree of freedom," he said. 

Kroger's president of its healthcare business, Colleen Lindholz, told the Journal the company is only receiving a small portion of the number of vaccines it has the ability to handle. The company's pharmacy chain provides about 200,000 doses of the flu vaccine weekly  during flu season, and has so far given about 4,500 doses of COVID-19 vaccinations in total. 

Rite Aid, the third-largest pharmacy chain in the U.S., told the Journal that more states are reaching out to ask for help with vaccinations. The company  recently started administering vaccines to healthcare workers in New Jersey, Philadelphia, New York City and Delaware. 

Read the full article here.

More articles on pharmacy:
Dozens of non-healthcare workers vaccinated at L.A. site intended for providers only
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What more pharmacy deserts amid the pandemic means for public health


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