An additional infusion of COVID-19 vaccines is expected in Oklahoma after state health officials said Wednesday that they have opted into President Joe Biden’s federal retail pharmacy program. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention details how the program works.
1. What is the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccination
The program is a collaboration between the federal government, states and territories, and 21 national pharmacy partners and independent pharmacy networks to increase access to COVID-19 vaccination across the United States. This program is one component of the Federal government’s strategy to expand access to vaccines for the American public. The program is being implemented incrementally based on the available vaccine supply, with select retail pharmacy locations providing COVID-19 vaccine to eligible individuals. As vaccine availability increases over time, the program will expand to ultimately include all 40,000+ pharmacies.
2. Why Pharmacies?
Pharmacists are highly trusted and trained healthcare providers who have direct access to and knowledge of their patient populations. Pharmacists are trained to counsel patients, administer vaccine, and provide vaccine education, and pharmacies are readily accessible in communities – with most Americans living within five miles of a pharmacy. Recognizing this, the federal government made them a key part of its COVID-19 vaccination strategy. While the program will ultimately expand to include more than 40,000 pharmacies, it is important to know that early on, when vaccine supply is still limited, many pharmacies may not have vaccine or may have very limited supply.
3. How it Works
As the program begins initial implementation, select retail pharmacies nationwide are receiving limited COVID-19 vaccine supply directly from the federal government to vaccinate state-selected priority groups at no cost.
The program will begin with per capita allocations by each jurisdiction that will divided among the selected pharmacy partners based on number of stores and reach. As the program expands, and supply becomes more readily available, the allocation may be adjusted to reflect partner size (number of store locations nationwide), reach (percent of the total U.S. population living within 5 miles of a store location), and ability to vaccinate (throughput).
Individuals who are eligible for vaccination in their state and are interested in getting vaccinated at their local pharmacy should call or check the pharmacy’s website to find out if vaccine is available.
Most pharmacy partners are using online scheduling systems to schedule vaccination visits for eligible individuals based on their limited available vaccine supply.
CDC has created a webpage that lists the pharmacy partners currently participating in the program in your state.
4. Program Benefits
As the program scales up to eventually include COVID-19 vaccination at all 40,000+ retail locations, it will:
Make it easier for individuals to access free COVID-19 vaccine at a pharmacy in their community
Improve vaccine uptake while decreasing the logistical and operations burden on state, local, and territorial health departments
5. Each partner plays a critical role in ensuring the success of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.
Pharmacy partners will select retail locations to receive vaccine based on various factors, including equitable access, demand, supply, and market saturation.
CDC is collaborating with states and territories to help ensure fair access to COVID-19 vaccine nationwide and is working with pharmacy partners to shift vaccine inventory as needed.
The program relies on a collaboration with public health (CDC and state, local, and territorial health departments) to encourage individuals to go to pharmacies and get vaccinated. As the program rolls out, intense community outreach will be critical to educate people about the importance of vaccination and where vaccines are available in the communities.