Supermarket Chains to Increase Administration of COVID-19 Vaccine

Major supermarket chains across the country, which are part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, will be receiving thousands of doses of COVID-19 vaccine directly from the federal government starting this week to be administered to customers who visit their stores.

Until now, grocery retailers received limited quantities of vaccine from state governments to inoculate people classified as Phase 1A. They are now preparing to vaccinate those over 65 years of age.

Walmart announced that more than 1,000 chain stores and Sam’s Club pharmacies in 22 states would be receiving federal vaccine allocations this week, emphasizing stores serving customers living in underserved communities with limited access to health care.

In addition to the 22 states, Walmart and Sam’s Club are also administering the COVID-19 vaccine under state allocation in 11 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. While the initial supply of vaccines is limited, Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacists and technicians are ready to expand access to vaccines nationwide, the company said in a statement.

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“Ninety percent of the country lives within 10 miles of a Walmart. We’re at the heart of many rural and underserved communities, and we are committed to providing access to vaccines as groups become eligible,” Dr. Cheryl Pegus, Executive Vice President, Health & Wellness, said. 

For its part, Albertsons said that, to date, they had administered more than 250,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine through partnerships with the states in which more than 1,700 of the retailer’s pharmacies operate.

With the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program’s activation, Albertsons pharmacies in Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington state will initially receive direct allocations of COVID-19 vaccine through this program beginning this week.

Albertsons will administer the additional supply of vaccine from the federal government according to state eligibility guidelines. The CDC cautioned that supply would be limited in the partnership’s initial phase, but as vaccine supply increases, more Albertsons pharmacies will participate in this federal program.

Likewise, according to the implementation plan, the Kroger supermarket chain said it would provide the COVID-19 vaccine nationwide at its 2,200 pharmacies and 220 clinics in 35 states, in partnership with the federal government and state health departments.

Publix supermarkets have administered more than 250,000 doses of vaccine in Florida and nearly 50,000 in Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia.

As a partner in the federal Retail Pharmacy Program, Publix will be administering vaccines in 593 pharmacies in its stores in 41 Florida counties.

When the federal government announced that grocery retailers would be definitive sites for the population vaccination process, FMI – Food Industry Association President and CEO Leslie Sarasin highlighted this mission of supermarkets: “Our members have sustained, strengthened and, at times, changed their operations to ensure that Americans have access to safe, nutritious and affordable food and products in high demand, all while supermarket pharmacies have continued to serve as a bridge between our communities and other providers. In particular, supermarket pharmacies offer patients immediate care that is close and convenient to home. Pharmacists also play an integral role in increasing vaccination rates nationwide, with more than 25% of annual influenza vaccines administered in pharmacies and more than 50% of shingles vaccines administered by them. And now, these healthcare professionals are ready to be part of the COVID-19 vaccination effort.”