The federal government next week is sending one million COVID-19 vaccine doses directly to 6,500 pharmacies in addition to the 10.5 million doses already earmarked for states, tribes and territories, according to Jeff Zients, the Biden Administration's COVID-19 coordinator.
The Federal Retail Pharmacy Program will begin on Thursday, February 11. Because supply is currently limited, consumers are asked to check their state guidelines on eligibility and to make an appointment.
Participating federal pharmacy partners (not all will be active in every state in the initial phase) include: Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, including Sam's Club, Rite Aid, Kroger, Publix Super Markets, Costco, Osco, Safeway, Acme and other Albertsons companies, Hy-Vee, Meijer, H-E-B, and Retail Business Services, including Food Lion, Giant Food, the Giant Company, Hannaford, Stop & Shop, and Winn-Dixie.
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The additional million doses to pharmacies are the result of manufacturing scaling up production, Zients said.
Distribution is based on area population and equity considerations, to make sure harder-to-reach, high-risk populations and communities are targeted, he said.
In addition, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has increased its support to $3 to $5 billion to fully reimburse states for the cost of mobilizing the National Guard and for items such as masks and gloves.
WHY THIS MATTERS
The federal government is working to speed up vaccine production and distribution.
Asked if this plan depends on passage of Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, Zients said, "The faster Congress acts, the faster we can scale."
Under the Biden Administration, vaccine supply increased by 16% last week, and by an additional 5% this week, Zients said. Since taking office, President Biden has increased the number of doses available by 20%.
In addition, Pfizer has increased the number doses per vial by 20%, for a sixth dose. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are the two currently being administered, with others on the horizon.
Despite efforts, consumers eligible for a vaccine report difficulty scheduling appointments as states fall short of supply.
THE LARGER TREND
It is now over a year since former Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared the pandemic a public health emergency on January 31, 2020.
The PHE has since been extended several times.
Over 26 million Americans have been infected by the coronavirus and over 440,000 people have died.
Nationally, associated illnesses and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 remain elevated, but show decreasing trends in recent weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, recent declines should be interpreted with caution as reporting delays increased due to the holidays and a rise in the number of COVID-19 illnesses. COVID-19 mortality for the most recent weeks are expected to increase as more data is received, the CDC said.
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