Grocery retailers are expanding COVID-19 vaccine distribution, with industry leader Walmart today sketching out its vaccination game plan.
In a blog post on Friday, Dr. Cheryl Pegus, executive vice president of health and wellness at Walmart, said the retail giant expects to be able to deliver 10 million to 13 million doses of coronavirus vaccine per month at full capacity, depending on government allocations and manufacturer supply. She noted that Walmart has been readying for the vaccination buildup by training thousands of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, creating a new digital scheduling tool for vaccine appointments, and partnering with state and federal agencies on vaccine allocations.
“As we look to a future when supply can meet demand and more people are eligible to receive the vaccine, we plan to offer the vaccine seven days a week at our pharmacies, through planned in-store vaccination clinics and through large community events,” Pegus said.
Given enough supply, Walmart expects to be able to deliver 10 million to 13 million doses of coronavirus vaccine per month at full capacity. (Photo courtesy of Walmart)
"How will we do this? Walmart and Sam’s Club operate more than 5,000 pharmacies in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, many of which serve underserved communities and the heart of rural America,” she explained. “With 150 million people passing through our doors each week, we’re in a unique position to reach people where they already shop. We’re also a federal pharmacy partner and can accept federal allocation of doses in all our Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies.”
In particular, Walmart can widen COVID-19 vaccine access in “health care deserts,” according to Pegus. The retailer has nearly 4,000 Walmart locations in one or more federally designated medically underserved areas or where there are limited pharmacy options, mostly rural areas, she said. In vaccination events, Walmart pharmacists and pharmacy staff can team up with community groups to administer coronavirus shots at third-party sites such as churches, stadiums and youth centers.
“We’re doing everything we can to help ensure the health and well-being of our associates and customers during the pandemic,” Pegus wrote in the blog. “We’re educating essential workers and all associates on getting the vaccine as soon as they are eligible. We are strongly encouraging all associates to get vaccinated but are not mandating anyone receive the vaccine nor are we providing incentives at this time.
“We appreciate the conversations we have had with both administrations and the ongoing conversations we are having with the new Biden administration,” she added. “We look forward to the day we can activate our strengths to serve our communities and administer the vaccine.”
Meanwhile, Texas grocer H-E-B reported yesterday that it has received a limited supply of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for Wharton, Aransas Pass and Portland.
Appointment-only clinics will be hosted for people in Phases 1A and 1B of the state’s vaccine allocation starting Jan. 22 in Wharton (400 doses). Clinics for the vaccination also will be held in Aransas Pass on Jan. 23 (500 doses) and in Portland on Jan. 24 (300 doses) and Jan. 28 (200 doses). Eligible individuals can schedule a vaccine appointment at heb.com/vaccine or by calling H-E-B’s vaccine phone line at (800) 811-8620.
H-E-B began its phased rollout of the coronavirus vaccine late last month to health care workers, community health providers and residents of long-term care facilities. The San Antonio-based company said Thursday that customers who received their first dose of the COVID vaccination from H-E-B between Dec. 23 and 27 will be contacted to schedule an appointment for the second dose.
Northeast and Mid-Atlantic grocer Wegmans Food Markets has extended its COVID vaccine program to additional states since starting last week in its home state of New York.
In Pennsylvania, eight Wegmans pharmacies in Collegeville, Concordville, Downingtown, Montgomeryville, Warrington, Wilkes-Barre, Bethlehem and Harrisburg are now providing vaccinations to people eligible for Phase 1A allocation, including health care workers, long-term care workers and residents, emergency medical personnel, seniors and those ages 18 to 64 with chronic conditions. Also, four Wegmans pharmacies in Massachusetts — Burlington, Chestnut Hill, Northborough and Westwood — are administering the vaccine to health and resident care workers, first responders, home-based caregivers and other groups.
Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans, too, is offering the Moderna vaccine at additional locations in New York, now including its pharmacies in Corning and on Military Road and Niagara Falls Boulevard in Buffalo. Pharmacies already providing COVID inoculations included stores in Rochester (Eastway, Pittsford, Chili-Paul, Mt. Read and East Avenue), Buffalo (Alberta Drive and Sheridan Drive) and Syracuse (Fairmount and Dewitt).
Harris Teeter reported a limited quantity of COVID vaccinations available at pharmacies in South Carolina. (Photo courtesy of Harris Teeter)
This week, The Kroger Co.’s Harris Teeter chain announced it will distribute COVID-19 vaccines to its 211 pharmacies in a phased approach — once available — to eligible people based on federal and state guidelines. So far, a limited supply became available this week to be administered to seniors ages 70 and older and to health care workers.
Matthews, N.C.-based Harris Teeter said the no-cost vaccination will be administered in its pharmacies by appointment only while supplies last. Those with an appointment must provide a valid driver’s license or government-issued ID card, and patients with health coverage should bring their insurance card.
People interested in receiving a COVID vaccine should check back often for updated information and eligibility criteria, Harris Teeter noted. The retailer operates stores in the Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia, Maryland, Delaware, Florida and the District of Columbia.
“Our teams are working tirelessly to build a seamless process for patients to check vaccine availability and eligibility, schedule their appointments and ask questions about the vaccination process,” Danna Robinson, communication manager at Harris Teeter, said in a statement.
Although U.S. pharmacies have been flooded with calls about COVID-19 vaccine appointments, many people remain iffy about getting a vaccination. According to a global survey released Friday by NielsenIQ, 64% of over 11,000 consumers in 15 countries said they won’t take an approved COVID-19 vaccine immediately when available.
In the United States, just 41% of respondents said they will get a coronavirus immunization immediate when it’s available. Twenty-nine percent said they would “wait for some time,” 19% won’t get vaccinated and 11% are undecided.
NielsenIQ also asked about the impact on food spending. After the vaccine becomes widely available, 64% of U.S. survey respondents said they will spend the same on groceries as they have. Twenty-one percent will spend more, and 15% will spend less.
Similarly, 41% of Americans polled said they will spend the same as they have on out-of-home dining upon vaccine availability, 24% will spend more and 22% will spend less.
“The conversation surrounding the vaccine has been dominated by logistics: drug administration approvals, the speed of production rates, countries vying to secure enough doses to vaccinate their populations, and most recently concerns around scaling and speeding up the rollout in countries around the world,” according Scott McKenzie, global intelligence leader at NielsenIQ. “Confidence levels around the vaccines and the desire to take the vaccines certainly may change as countries begin more concerted rollouts and deliver education campaigns around the vaccines. But clear signals indicate that the arrival of vaccines won’t automatically flip a switch to put the world back on its pre-COVID path.”