White House announces some COVID-19 vaccines will be sent directly to pharmacies
The Biden administration on Tuesday announced that it will begin providing COVID-19 vaccines directly to pharmacies around the country in an effort to expand access.
The vaccines will be available in 6,500 pharmacies to start with, said Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator. Supplies will be limited at first, with 1 million vaccine doses per week given to pharmacies starting Feb. 11.
In addition, the administration is increasing by 5 percent the vaccine doses given to states each week, to 10.5 million per week. That is on top of a 16 percent increase announced last week.
The moves are part of a drumbeat of announcements from the Biden administration in its first weeks around the vaccine effort, a daunting challenge where officials are trying to demonstrate they are moving urgently to boost the number of vaccinations.
Still, Zients was careful to temper expectations that far from everyone will be able to walk into a CVS for a vaccine in the near future.
“This will be limited when it begins next week,” he said. Some pharmacies “may have very limited supply,” he added.
As supply from the manufacturers increases, officials hope to expand the program, up to as many as 40,000 pharmacies nationwide.
The increase in vaccine supply to states and the extra doses given directly to pharmacies are due to Moderna and Pfizer scaling up their production capabilities, Zients said. States across the country have been eager for more doses, saying they have capacity to administer more than they are currently getting, but manufacturing capacity is a limitation.
Finally, the administration is increasing reimbursement to states for expenses like using the National Guard, dating back to the start of the pandemic last year. That totals $3 billion to $5 billion, which Zients said is a small share of the funding states need, and the administration is asking Congress for much more.