All 5,100-plus Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies can now administer COVID-19 vaccines on a walk-up or scheduled basis.
Walmart said Tuesday that reaching walk-in status marks a milestone in its coronavirus immunization program, which got under way in December and now reaches across its market area, covering 49 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies are administering the two-dose Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines and the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, as supply allows. At Sam’s, membership isn’t required to receive a COVID shot.
“Now that supply and eligibility have expanded, it’s even more important for us to reach underserved and vulnerable populations to ensure equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine,” Dr. Cheryl Pegus, executive vice president for Walmart Health & Wellness, said in a statement. “Widespread vaccination is the only way we will eventually end the pandemic and help our country reopen, and we don’t want anyone to get left behind as we enter this new chapter in our fight against COVID-19.”
With COVID vaccinations readily available, Walmart is turning more attention to launching new programs that address vaccine hesitancy and bringing shots to areas with limited access to health care.
Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart said Monday it has kicked off Get Out The Vaccine (GOTV), a national campaign to raise public awareness of the efficacy and safety of COVID-19 immunizations. An extension of the retailer’s role in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program and state vaccination initiatives, GOTV will provide educational materials about the vaccines at stores and clubs nationwide, with a goal of reducing consumer reluctance to get immunized and boost vaccine uptake, the company said.
Under the GOTV campaign, Walmart also is providing COVID vaccines directly to communities via mobile clinics at events and gatherings. Most recently, the company partnered with the National Hot Rod Association at its Southern Nationals Event in Commerce, Ga., to offer walk-up vaccinations for racing fans, educational resources with background on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines and an official Walmart-branded dragster with information on how to schedule a vaccine.
The growing supply of coronavirus inoculations also has enable Walmart and Sam’s Club to reach more customers in vulnerable communities, the retailer noted. Nearly 4,000 Walmart and Sam’s stores are now administering COVID-19 vaccines in locations designated as medically underserved areas by the Health Resources and Services Location (HRSA).
Walmart and Sam’s, too, have teamed up with national and local nonprofits, community partners and faith-based organizations to hold community vaccine events for thousands of area residents. For example, Walmart participated in a vaccine drive with the NBA’s Boston Celtics to spur vaccinations in the Boston community and in an immunization event with Está En Tus Manos to reach members of the Latinx community in the Las Vegas area.
“As the vaccine becomes more widely available, events like this one become important in ensuring that all individuals have access to these resources,” stated Boston Celtics Team President Rich Gotham. “We’re appreciative to be able to work with Walmart and the city of Boston to provide this service for the community.”
Together, Walmart and Sam’s have supported more than 200 vaccine events, staffed by pharmacists and technicians trained in dealing with vaccine hesitancy, according to the retailer.
“Clark County is focused on vaccinating as many people as we can to fully reopen our local economy and ensure the safety of our residents and visitors to Las Vegas,” commented Clark County Commissioner William McCurdy, a member of Está En Tus Manos, an initiative in Southern Nevada to educate Latinos about COVID-19 and vaccinations. “We are working to ensure that access to the vaccine is available to everyone, especially in some of our neighborhoods that have been hardest hit by the pandemic, and we appreciate Walmart’s partnership in helping us achieve our goal of becoming one of the most vaccinated communities in the country.”
Walmart added that, through Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club, it’s working with more than 100 employers across the country to vaccinate employees and help the nation reopen. The company, too, said it continues to urge — but not require — Walmart and Sam’s employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. To that end, store associates are being offered vaccine appointments, two hours’ paid time to get a vaccination at the location of their choice, and the opportunity to get a shot during their shift if vaccines are being offered at their location. Walmart said it also has enhanced its COVID emergency leave policy for associates to include three days of paid leave for any vaccine side effects.