CVS Health is taking a big step in distributing vaccines for COVID-19 by working to deploy initial doses of the coronavirus vaccine to the vulnerable, specifically long-term health care settings, within 24 to 48 hours.
“We’re ready to go,” CVS Health chief executive Larry Merlo told CNBC. “We’re in great shape and as I mentioned, people are excited to be an important part of this solution.”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, frontline medical workers and nursing home residents should be the priority for vaccination, with the decision ultimately left to states and local jurisdictions.
The retail pharmacy giant has 10,000 health care professionals initially hired for COVID-19 testing, ready to administer the vaccine.
In October, the federal government announced a deal with both Walgreens and CVS to administer the vaccine free of charge to staff and residents of all long-term care facilities. The deal included skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, residential care facilities, and adult family homes.
“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 to Americans as fast as possible,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in a press release announcing the partnership in October.
Long-term care facilities can choose between CVS, Walgreens, or a local pharmacy to distribute the vaccine. 40,000 long-term care facilities have so far selected CVS to distribute their vaccine, while 30,000 selected Walgreens.
Since October, CVS has been aggressively seeking to hire health care professionals and has turned to pharmacy schools to recruit pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and interns. CVS is also searching for retired health-care professionals interested in returning on a part-time basis.
According to Fox Business, Walgreens has roughly 25,000 open positions to fill immediately, approximately 8,000 of which are for pharmacy team members handling coronavirus testing and vaccination.
Bloomberg reported that Walgreens is offering $500 referrals and up to $30,000 sign-on bonuses for eligible pharmacists and technicians.
If approved, the vaccines would be sent to locations requested by each state’s governor, with many taking advantage of the infrastructure established between CVS, Walgreens, and the federal government.
Rite Aid, Walmart, Costco, Albertsons, and Publix are expected to join the vaccine distribution system.