With coronavirus infections and deaths soaring in Southern California, The Kroger Co.’s Ralphs supermarket chain has begun administering COVID-19 vaccines to health care personnel.
Los Angeles-based Ralphs said Friday it has obtained a supply of the Moderna vaccine and is providing immunizations to its pharmacy staff and other health care professionals at its 50 pharmacies in California’s Los Angeles and Riverside Counties. Plans call for Ralphs Pharmacy locations in San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties and the City of Long Beach to get allocations of the COVID-19 vaccine this week.
Available at no cost, the vaccinations currently are only being offered to people eligible for the first tier of Phase 1A of county public health COVID-19 vaccine guidelines, according to Ralphs. Those seeking a shot must first complete a disclosure form indicating they’re eligible for the Phase 1A distribution.
“Our most urgent priority throughout this pandemic has been to provide a safe environment for our associates and customers while meeting our societal obligation to provide open stores and access to fresh, affordable food,” Dr. Linh Lee, director of pharmacy, health and wellness at Ralphs, said in a statement. “We are pleased that, through our advocacy efforts, our frontline associates have been moved to Phase 1B of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution.”
Ralphs noted that it will follow guidance from local health departments on vaccine allocation for the general public. The retailer said it plans to roll out the COVID vaccination to all 77 pharmacies in its 188 stores across Southern California and the Central Coast as soon it becomes available via local health authorities.
“We are confident in the safety of the vaccine based on the thorough clinical trials and assurances from the Food & Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Lee added. "Additionally, Ralphs pharmacists will provide monitoring for 15 to 30 minutes after the vaccination is administered for any potential immediate reaction that could occur.”
As of late afternoon on Monday, California had nearly 2.72 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 30,000 deaths from the virus, with a statewide testing positivity rate of 7.46%, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. Of the top 10 U.S. counties in terms of confirmed coronavirus cases, California has five, with No. 1 Los Angeles County having more than double the number of cases (920,177) than the next-highest county, Chicago’s Cook County (417,790).
Kroger Health, the health care arm of The Kroger Co., announced in late December that it was preparing to provide coronavirus vaccinations nationwide across its 2,200 pharmacies and 220 in-store clinics in 35 states.
Ralphs added that it has been proactive throughout the pandemic in providing at-home and free drive-through COVID-19 testing. The chain said it has assisted Cincinnati-based parent company Kroger in conducting over 250,000 COVID-19 tests nationally since April. Kroger continues to offer free COVID-19 testing to all Ralphs' frontline associates. More recently, Ralphs and Kroger became the nation’s first retailer to offer rapid antibody tests to customers for just $25. Rapid antibody testing helps inform patients if they previously have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
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