For now, with the green-lighting of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine and Moderna potentially receiving the same approval later this week, the public distribution of the doses is currently limited to frontline health-care workers and residents in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
According to health officials and companies who will eventually give the shots to the general public, it will still be several months before the average person can walk into their local drugstore or grocery store and receive the vaccine.
Approximately twenty drugstores and grocery stores forged partnerships with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last month to help administer the vaccines. Walgreens and CVS, in particular, are expected to play a vital role in the early phases of the vaccine rollout.
“Over the next couple of months, we anticipate that we’ll be able to have (it in) our stores similar to the flu season,” Rina Shah, group vice president of pharmacy operations at Walgreens, said Monday in an interview on CNBC.
She added that it would be “hopefully in the spring time frame,” and that it is important for health-care workers and residents of long-term care facilities to be first in line since supplies remain limited.
Chris Cox, a senior vice president of CVS, said that he hopes the company can give the shots at its drugstores in April or May and that appointments will be needed.
“When someone makes their appointment, we’re going to educate them right then and there that this is a two-shot vaccine and we’re going to have them schedule it just like a round-trip plane ticket, where they’re going to schedule both of their doses at the same time,” he said in an interview on CNBC last week.
Cox added that the type of vaccine given to customers will depend on what is in stock at a particular store.
Costco is also expected to begin offering the vaccines in spring, while Rite Aid, Kroger, Publix, and H-E-B have said that they are still waiting to hear from officials on when they will receive the vaccine doses.
Meantime, Walmart, which is currently adding freezer capacity and purchasing dry ice for its pharmacies, is preparing more than five thousand of its stores for the vaccine rollout.
White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a Monday interview on NBC News that he expects healthy Americans who don’t qualify for a vaccine due to their employment or medical condition to start getting the shots as early as late March—depending on the “efficiency of the rollout.”
It could be “sometime by the end of March, the beginning of April, that the normal healthy man and woman in the street who has no underlying conditions would likely get it,” he said.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.