Washington, DC—The pipeline has opened to supply the first 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine directly to pharmacies partnering with the federal government to immunize Americans in their communities.

Now, pharmacists will be facing their biggest challenges yet in managing the logistics of scheduling, screening, vaccinating, and monitoring a public eager to get be protected against the novel coronavirus.

The Biden Administration announced at the beginning of February that it would begin shipping vaccine to some of the 6,500 pharmacies—chain and community—that are part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. Coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said the number of participating pharmacies is expected to grow as pharmaceutical companies can increase production, allowing more doses to be allocated.

Eventually, vaccines are expected to be available at the more than 40,000 locations nationwide represented by the 21 national pharmacy partners and network of independent pharmacies. National pharmacy associations have announced that their industry is capable of vaccinating tens of millions of people monthly.

“This will provide more sites for people to get vaccinated in their communities,” Zients said. He added that one priority will be to get the vaccine to minority communities that have been disproportionately affected by the virus.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) worked with states to select initial pharmacy partners based on a number of factors, including their ability to reach some of the populations most at risk for severe illness from COVID-19,” according to a White House Fact Sheet.

When the pharmacy program was originally announced in November, before emergency-use authorizations were granted for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, the chains and associations participating covered about three out of five pharmacies in all 50 states and U.S. territories, such as Puerto Rico.

Zients also announced an increase in doses the government is shipping to states, territories, and some major metropolitan areas. Those will now total 10.5 million doses across all jurisdictions, up from 10 million announced last week.

The 1 million doses being shipped to pharmacies will be on top of the allocations to states, which were set to increase to 10.5 million doses from the 10 million announced the week before. All of the largest drugstore, big box, and grocery chains are included in the partnership, as are groups representing community pharmacies. Other pharmacies are contracting directly with their states to receive vaccine.

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