Walmart, Meijer and Hy-Vee have begun offering COVID-19 booster shots, after the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization (EUA) for a booster dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine.
Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart said Friday that more than 5,100 Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club pharmacies are now administering the Pfizer COVID booster shot to eligible patients while supplies last.
Under the FDA’s EUA, a single booster dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine can be given — at least six months after completing the primary two-shot series of its vaccination — to seniors; people ages 18 to 64 at high risk of severe COVID-19; and individuals ages 18 to 64 whose frequent institutional or occupational exposure to COVID puts them at high risk of serious complications from the virus, including a severe infection from the disease.
Walmart noted that, as with the initial and third dose authorizations of COVID vaccines, the company will continue to support long-term care centers with booster shots via in-store events and on-site events at skilled nursing facilities. Likewise, Walmart and Sam’s Club will partner with community groups and local officials to administer COVID boosters to eligible patient in communities nationwide, with a focus on rural and underserved areas. All of the vaccines are administered by certified pharmacists, technicians and health care professionals.
“Thank you to our pharmacists, pharmacy techs, vision center associates and all our H&W [health and wellness] associates who go the extra mile day after day to help our customers live healthier,” Dr. John Wigneswaran, chief medical officer for Walmart, said in a statement. “Our commitment remains unwavering to meeting the health care needs of our communities in ways that are affordable and accessible to all, and we are proud to play an important role in administering vaccines, third doses and now booster shots.”
Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer said yesterday that its all of its pharmacies now can administer booster shots of the Pfizer COVID vaccination to eligible patients no matter where they received their original vaccine series. The chain operates 257 supercenters and grocery stores in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin.
“We’ve come a long way these past 18 months, but in order to continue on that path and maintain our healthy communities, we encourage everyone who is eligible to get the COVID-19 booster,” Meijer President and CEO Rick Keyes stated. “Our pharmacy team worked diligently to vaccinate a very large number of people in a relatively short amount of time and is preparing to administer boosters for those who are eligible to take that next step.”
Eligible patients who received their original vaccinations from Meijer, whether in a store or at an off-site Meijer clinic, will be sent a text before their time frame to schedule their booster appointment. All other patients can text COVID to 75049 to schedule an appointment or visit any Meijer pharmacy.
“We know that thousands of people are eligible now, including those who received their initial vaccine series at clinics that no longer exist. So we want to make it easy for patients to schedule their booster dose when it works for them,” explained Jackie Morse, vice president of pharmacy at Meijer. “Regardless of where you received your original vaccination, it’s important to know that our teams are here for you.”
Meijer added that, since launching its COVID vaccine program in late April, the company has administered 1.9 million doses overall.
Hy-Vee, which announced its COVID-19 booster shot program on Friday, noted the key differences between the booster and the third dose, the latter approved by the FDA and CDC in August. The third dose is recommended at least 28 days after the second dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines and only for people ages 12 and older who are moderately to severely immunocompromised.
Also, the West Des Moines, Iowa-based food and drug retailer said, there currently are no authorized booster doses for the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccines, no authorized booster dose the ages 12-to-17 Pfizer/BioNTech COVID vaccine and no authorized second dose for the one-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine.
Hy-Vee reported that free Pfizer COVID booster doses are now available at its more than 275 pharmacy locations across its eight-state Midwestern market. The chain, which began providing third COVID vaccine doses in mid-August, also is offering $10 Hy-Vee gift cards to patients who complete their COVID-19 vaccination — including Pfizer vaccine recipients who receive a booster shot — with Hy-Vee through Nov. 1.
The FDA announced its updated EUA for the Pfizer vaccine, providing for the single booster dose, late Wednesday.
“After considering the totality of the available scientific evidence and the deliberations of our advisory committee of independent, external experts, the FDA amended the EUA for the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to allow for a booster dose in certain populations such as health care workers, teachers and day care staff, grocery workers and those in homeless shelters or prisons, among others,” Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement. “This pandemic is dynamic and evolving, with new data about vaccine safety and effectiveness becoming available every day. As we learn more about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, including the use of a booster dose, we will continue to evaluate the rapidly changing science and keep the public informed.”
CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky endorsed the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) recommendation for a booster shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for certain vulnerable populations on Friday. The agency said these populations groups will benefit from additional protection given the Delta variant’s dominance as the circulating strain and rising cases of COVID-19 nationwide.
“We will address, with the same sense of urgency, recommendations for the Moderna and J&J vaccines as soon as those data are available,” Walensky added.