On Feb. 5, 2021, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores(NACDS) held a nationwide press conference to inform members of the press about the coordinated effort to supply the COVID vaccine to select pharmacies nationwide. This effects Walgreens in Coronado and CVS Pharmacy in Imperial Beach.

The information stage was set with a cast of people at the heart of the distribution of the vaccine to pharmacies across the U.S. The briefing and Q & A was narrated by Chris Krese, Sr. VP of Marketing and Media Relations for NACDS. Those answering questions, all of NACDS, were:

Steven Anderson, president & CEO; Kathleen Jaeger, Sr. VP of Pharmacy Care & Patient Advocacy; and Christie Boutte, Sr. VP of State Strategic Affairs & Advocacy.

During the briefing, Anderson emphasized that pharmacies across America are prepared and have the experience to “turn vaccine doses into appointments.”

“There is a pharmacy in the program within 5 miles of 90% of Americans,” said Anderson. “The initial stage will include 6500 stores and 1 million doses of the Moderna vaccine only. There is potential for over 40,000 retail pharmacies to distribute the vaccine in the future through this Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.”

Jaeger went on to explain more of the details of the program. “The program will be rolled out incrementally by the federal government to eligible groups at no cost; no one will be turned away from this vaccination. We ask that you check your local pharmacy website for availability of the vaccine and see if you meet the criteria for what is currently tier 1.

“Unfortunately the current supply of the vaccine is very limited and vaccinations are controlled by supply,” Jaeger said. “As additional supplies and brands (such as Pfizer) become available, they will roll out to the drug stores in this program.”

Listening to this broadcast, it was made very clear by the members that the NACDS is following every Center of Disease Control (CDC), state, and pharmacy partner to ensure that those who are eligible at this time will receive the vaccine as long as supplies last.

Jaeger continued with what she emphasized was a critical part of allowing this program to work smoothly and by the rules set forth by the CDC and the NACDS. “The retail pharmacies are using an appointment based system only,” said Jaeger.

To allow our pharmacy staff to operate efficiently, NACDS is asking that everyone follow these guidelines: go to the pharmacy website in your area; determine if you are currently eligible (questions); make your appointment and go to your appointment; wait the designated time for observation after the vaccine is administered; and then you may go home.

“Our retail pharmacies are playing a critical role in vaccinating Americans and we want this to be efficient and effective,” said Jaeger. “Let’s also remember, the pharmacies that have been chosen to participate in this rollout have complied with all storage restrictions and various other stringent guidelines.

“The other potential pharmacies for distribution are in queue and ramping up for future vaccinations.” Jaeger continued with some positive news that could put Americans at ease moving forward with COVID concerns. “We have the potential to distribute 100 million doses in 30 days”, said Jaeger. “We have the capacity to accomplish this when we are fully ramped up and move forward with additional availability. At this time, we just don’t know the amount that will be coming through the system”.

Since the pandemic hit the U.S., there have been many questions and concerns as it relates to the rural and vulnerable populations that have no transportation to a location, have health issues that limit movement, or have no access to an actual pharmacy in their area at all. These concerns were confidently addressed by Christie Boutte during this press conference. “Our plan is to have mobile and pop up clinics,” said Boutte. “We have created a plan that will enable the pharmacy to either go to the person or provide transportation directly to a location for the vaccine – a mobile pharmacy. Pharmacies know their communities and their needs in the rural areas so they are ready to help. These are trained and trusted pharmacy employees that are making the vaccine accessible and are prepared to vaccinate everyone that is eligible.”

According to the statistics kept by the CDC and the NACDS, about one-third of a community received their flu shots at a pharmacy location. Thirty-five percent of Americans go to a pharmacy rather than a doctor for their vaccinations.

“Pharmacies have been working with vulnerable populations for over 10 years in rural areas”, says Boutte. “They trust their local pharmacist and they will be there to help their community during this critical time.”

Boutte emphasized that there would be no vaccine waste in this roll out. Any leftover vials will be transferred to another nearby pharmacy if there is an overage.

The most important question in this landscape is when will this program begin and when will qualified people be able to get their first shot? Jaeger said, “Pharmacies may begin with actual vaccinations on Feb. 11. It is up to the stores to make sure they are ready for their patients, but via the guidelines, allocations, and locations, they may start administering Feb. 11.”

Retail pharmacies participating in the program will vary state to state. Please visit the CDC website and the pharmacy’s website to find out if they are providing the COVID-19 vaccine in your area. In Coronado and Imperial Beach, Walgreens and CVS are both on the current list of vaccine providers. Please check for any changes and follow the guidelines for registration and eligibility.

“The key to making this work is to strive for harmony state to state,” said Jaeger. “We are in the process of enforcing every state to have tier 1 be age 65 and above for the vaccine. We are working through the per capita issues and looking at the largest footprints and the most vulnerable areas to COVID. The future target is for all pharmacies to have the vaccine and everyone to become vaccinated as soon as possible. We are just not sure about when we will be able to move to tier 2.”

In order to have this program work efficiently, local pharmacies need to do their jobs and get as many people vaccinated as soon as possible. This is a program funded by a CDC grant from the federal government where the pharmacies will be reimbursed through private insurance, Medicare, etc. There is no cost to individuals and no one will be refused, according to the NACDS.

Now is the time to get vaccinated if you qualify.

Go to your local pharmacy website, walgreens.com/schedulevaccine (619-435-6354) or CVS.com/coronavirus (619-424-8989). Answer a few questions. Determine your eligibility. Go to the appointment step. Sign the consent form. Show up to our local pharmacy, close your eyes, it’s only a small prick, and thank our frontline workers for helping to get us to the first tier so we can get to the next tiers. We are all looking forward to getting back to some kind of normal new or otherwise.

You may also call our local pharmacies and there is recorded information on how to check for details on the vaccine.

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