CVS Health has announced that it will begin to administer COVID-19 vaccines to eligible populations at 81 of its pharmacies across Florida in an ongoing effort to expand access to the vaccines, which public health experts say are vital in ending the ongoing pandemic.
Appointments are expected to become available for booking later this week as the pharmacies receive shipments of the vaccine. Since walk-in vaccinations will not be provided, patients will have to register in advance in addition to meeting eligibility criteria that must be confirmed by the state.
The supply, which comes from the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, will be limited to about 62,000 weekly doses, and will be available in select counties, including Broward, Collier, Escambia, Flagler, Hendry, Gadsden, Hillsborough, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Polk, St. Lucie, and Volusia.
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As more supply becomes available, the company will expand vaccine access through an increasing number of store locations in additional counties.
The push in Florida follows a February 12 rollout in 11 other states: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.
CVS anticipates that vaccines will eventually be available at its pharmacy locations throughout the country, although it didn't provide specifics as to when future rollouts might take place. Ultimately, the goal is to have the capacity to administer 20 to 25 million shots per month, subject to vaccine availability.
CVS is also vaccinating residents and staff at 2,000 long-term care facilities across Florida as part of the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, with the company saying that it has completed vaccines for all skilled nursing facilities, and will complete second doses at assisted living and other facilities by mid-March.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING INITIATIVE
The company also announced that it invested $114 million in affordable housing in 2020, a move CVS said would lead to the construction and rehabilitation of more than 2,800 affordable housing units in 30 cities across 12 states. Of those, 560 are dedicated to housing seniors, while roughly 100 are earmarked specifically for veterans and veterans' families.
The result of the investment and collaboration with community organizations is expected to result in the construction of about 460 permanent supportive housing (PSH) units that will go toward those affected by homelessness, chronic illness, domestic violence and addiction.
The PSH residents will also receive access to a wide range of services to stabilize and improve their health including social, behavioral-health and addiction-recovery services.
The affordable housing push is part of CVS Health's larger commitment to addressing racial inequity and the social determinants of health in Black communities. Under this commitment, the company will invest nearly $600 million over five years to advance employee, community and public policy initiatives that address inequity faced by Black people and other disenfranchised communities.
CVS has made a number of investments on that front, including $13.7 million in September 2020 to renovate 230 low-income housing units at the Rosewind Apartments in Columbus, Ohio; $8.7 million in November 2020 to help build a new 116-unit affordable housing complex in the Mercy Drive neighborhood of Orlando; $15.3 million to build 144 new homes and services for Ohio seniors, including those with disabilities; $6.2 million for Happiness House Apartments in Canandaigua, New York, a supportive housing community; and $4.3 million for Bridgeway Community Housing in Wasilla, Alaska, a 24-unit PSH project.
THE LARGER TREND
In January, President Biden promised to deliver 100 million vaccines within his first 100 days in office. But his coronavirus czar has reportedly found that no distribution plan exists from the Trump Administration to build upon.
Jeff Zients, coordinator of Biden's COVID-19 task force, told NBC News that what the team is inheriting is much worse than what they could have imagined. Zients said he and the Biden team do not have exact supply projections from vaccine manufacturers, other than knowing there is enough supply for the administration's goal of 100 million shots in the first 100 days, the report said.
The Biden team is inheriting a vaccine strategy that relied on states for distribution.
Near the tail end of January, America's Health Insurance Plans added a resource page on what insurers are doing in the COVID-19 vaccine effort. The page includes actions being taken by individual insurers to provide access and to cover the cost of the vaccine, including deductibles and copays.
The dedicated resource page also includes a list of frequently asked questions focused on issues such as coverage, coding and billing, the timing and availability of vaccines, links to government toolkits, and legislation focused on the vaccines.
This week, CVS Health said it would team with Lyft, the YMCA and other nonprofit partners to address inequities related to COVID-19 vaccine access in vulnerable communities, with a particular focus on Black and Hispanic populations.
CVS and its new partners are providing rides for those in need to vaccination appointments. In addition to directly funding rides, corporate partners will leverage their customers and member networks to promote individual contributions to the campaign, as well as provide social media and marketing resources to connect people in need with community partners.
They will work using Lyft's transportation platform. Community partners will then route ride credits to those in need.