We have administered just a fraction of the 25 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine that were delivered to state and federal agencies since they were approved in December. Part of the problem for the painfully slow rollout of vaccines is that the Pfizer drug requires sub-zero storage temps of minus 70 degrees Celsius, and the Moderna vaccine also must be stored in a freezer at minus 20 degrees Celsius.
Another factor is that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that shots be prioritized with medical and healthcare persons at the head of the list, leaving the average person lower on the totem pole. Some experts say we must broaden our vaccine distribution as soon as possible to help contain COVID-19, according to Market Watch.
While the CDC has partnered with CVS, Walgreens, and Managed Health Care Associates to offer on-site vaccination services to residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, Market Watch notes that these CVS and Walgreens operated only 18,400 of the 62,100 retail pharmacies in the U.S.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced January 7, that the Trump administration planned to ultimately include 40,000 more pharmacy sites for vaccination from 19 chains and associations.
HHS partnered with 11 national grocery chains that have retail pharmacies last November to help facilitate the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. Azar said that partnering with grocery stores would make getting the vaccine more convenient for Americans since most of them live within a 5-mile radius of their neighborhood food market.
But Vassilios Papadopoulos, the dean of the School of Pharmacy at the University of Southern California, tells Market Watch in an opinion piece that independent pharmacies have been left out of the rollout plan for the most part and yet this missing link could help speed distribution of the vaccine.
“They are the single most accessible health care providers to Americans,” he writes. Papadopoulos points out that West Virginia, which does not have many chain stores, elected to use 250 independent pharmacies to distribute their share of COVID-19 vaccines and now boasts the highest vaccination rate in the country.
The expert adds that according to Gallup’s annual survey of professionals, pharmacists remain at the top of the list for honesty and ethics, according to an article published in Drug Topics. This may make Americans less hesitant to get the vaccine if it is given by someone they trust.
“They are also the most contacted health professionals for people with chronic conditions and therefore can act quickly to vaccinate clients when they come in for other medications,” said Papadopoulos. “In many independent pharmacies, they know their clients well enough to be proactive in urging them to come in for a vaccination.”
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