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COVID-19 Vaccines May Now Be Available at Your Local Pharmacy

Nurse giving flu vaccine to a senior patient in the hospital.

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Key Takeaways

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will collaborate with 21 national pharmacy partners and independent pharmacy networks to increase access to the COVID-19 vaccines. 
  • Some of the participating pharmacies include Walgreens, CVS Pharmacy, Inc, Rite Aid Corp, and Costco Wholesale Corp.
  • By offering COVID-19 vaccines at pharmacies, the federal government can leverage already established distribution networks for timely distribution of doses.

On February 2, President Joe Biden announced the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, giving individuals the opportunity to get vaccinated at their local pharmacy.

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) guidance, the federal government is shipping Moderna and Pfizer doses directly to pharmacies in hopes of accelerating COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Beginning February 11, one million vaccine doses will be distributed and divided among select pharmacies across the nation.

The CDC worked with states to select pharmacy partners that will start distributing the COVID-19 vaccine. The selection process was based on a number of factors including:

  • The number of stores
  • The ability to reach the most at-risk populations or people with severe illness
  • Alignment with the existing vaccination plan

Some of the selected pharmacies include:

  • Walgreens 
  • CVS Pharmacy, Inc.
  • Walmart, Inc.
  • Rite Aid Corp.
  • The Kroger co. 
  • Costco Wholesale Corp. 
  • Retail Business Services, LLC (including Stop & Shop

When vaccine supply increases, the CDC hopes to add more pharmacies to their list. 

Benefits in Using Pharmacies

According to Nitin Desai, MD, chief medical officer of the digital app COVID PreCheck, there are a variety of reasons why the federal government has decided to partner with local pharmacies. “Pharmacies have a very large distribution network and locations to the advantage of community-wide presence including some rural areas,” Desai tells Verywell. Pharmacies make for great COVID-19 vaccine distribution points because of their established distribution network for other vaccines like the flu and pneumonia shots. 

Desai says that the federal government is not using pharmacies in lieu of clinics and hospitals. Rather, “they are using both," Desai says. "Clinics may still have limited resources; say for storage requirements and temperature management."

Pharmacies are particularly helpful in reaching communities with low-income populations. “People in low-income communities may have more difficulty traveling to distant vaccination sites as they may be less likely to own a car or may be unable to take a day off from work to get their vaccine,” Sarah Audi, PharmD, assistant director of operations for Community Care Rx, tells Verywell. 

Additionally, pharmacists are among the most accessible and trusted healthcare personnel, according to Audi. “Just like the easy access of flu shots and other vaccines, it makes sense for pharmacies to be able to provide easy access of care for the COVID-19 vaccine as well,” she says. 

Having pharmacists distribute the vaccine may help ease vaccine hesitancy. “Pharmacists can educate community members about the safety, side effects, and expectations post-vaccination,” Audi says.

What This Means For You

If you are eligible for vaccination in your state, the CDC recommends calling your local pharmacy or checking the pharmacy’s website to find out if the vaccine is available near you. To learn more about the pharmacy partners in your state, visit the CDC's website.

Pharmacy Operations 

For Audi’s pharmacy, there are scheduling, administering, and reporting protocols that allow the pharmacy to smoothly distribute vaccines. “We are able to distribute the limited supply we receive to appropriate eligible patients,” Audi says. After going on-site and administering the doses, Audi and her team report it to both the state and CDC within 24 hours. These rules and regulations are based on state and federal guidelines and requirements. 

It’s important to note that not all pharmacies have received the vaccine doses yet. “The allocation is expanding and more pharmacies will be receiving the vaccine as the distribution has increased as well,” Audi says. At first, during the pharmacy program's earliest stages, even employees of partnership pharmacies were not able to get vaccinated first. 

The CDC will continue to partner with pharmacies as more supply becomes available. According to Audi, the CDC is being careful to monitor their waste efforts by tracking any wasted doses and side effects. 

“Pharmacies are ready to vaccinate our community members," Audi says. "We have the proper storage, licensed vaccinators, and the clinical background."

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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  1. The White House. Fact Sheet: President Biden Announces Increased Vaccine Supply, Initial Launch of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, and Expansion of FEMA Reimbursement to States. Updated February 2, 2021.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership Program for COVID-19 Vaccination FAQs. Updated February 12, 2021. 

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pharmacies Participating in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. Updated February 2, 2021.