Jan 28, 2021
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Walmart expects to be able to administer between 10 million and 13 million COVID-19 shots per month at its more than 5,000 in-store pharmacies in the United States and Puerto Rico once it has sufficient access to vaccine supplies, the company said Friday in a blog post.
The retailer said it is especially focused on providing vaccinations in regions where people have limited access to healthcare services and is prepared to work with community organizations to run vaccine clinics outside its stores.
Although Walmart is stepping up its efforts to position itself as a front line resource in the United States' effort to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, the retailer noted in the blog post that it is not providing incentives to its workers to get vaccinated, even as a growing number of competitors have said they will do so.
Long known for having a strong presence in less-populated parts of the U.S., Walmart is highlighting its connections with rural communities as it develops messaging related to the national campaign to vaccinate people against COVID-19.
Walmart has nearly 4,000 locations in one or more parts of the country designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as medically underserved areas or that have relatively few pharmacies, Cheryl Pegus, the company’s executive vice president of health and wellness, said in the blog post. In addition, the company wants to provide staff and other resources to deliver vaccinations at locations like churches, stadiums and youth centers in collaboration with community organizations, Pegus said.
The retailer is also drawing attention to its immense reach. Walmart serves 150 million people per week and, as a federal pharmacy partner, can receive federal allocations of COVID-19 doses in all of its pharmacies, which are located in its namesake stores as well as Sam’s Club locations, said Pegus, who joined Walmart at the end of 2020 from Cambia Health Solutions, where she was chief medical officer and president of consumer health solutions.
Walmart’s announcement comes as the new administration accelerates efforts to overcome the government’s initial slow rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. President Joe Biden stated that doses will be provided to 100 million people within the first 100 days of his administration — a goal that Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical advisor, said at a Jan. 21 White House briefing is "quite a reasonable goal."
Walmart, which said just before Christmas that it would administer the first COVID-19 vaccine doses it received to its pharmacists, provided its first COVID-19 vaccinations in New Mexico. The company also is delivering vaccines in its home state of Arkansas.
According to a report by Reuters, Walmart next will start administering shots in Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, South Carolina, Texas, Illinois and Puerto Rico.
Walmart is talking up its vaccination capabilities as the company looks to expand its role as a healthcare provider. The company began selling Medicare plans last fall and intends to open at least 22 health locations by the end of 2021.
Walmart is among a number of retailers, including Albertsons, H-E-B, Meijer and Hy-Vee, that are working with the federal government to distribute COVID-19 vaccines through their pharmacies and taking steps to inform the public about their efforts. H-E-B, which administered its first shots in December, said Thursday that it would be activating an online scheduler that people eligible to receive shots will be able to use to make appointments.
Amazon, meanwhile, said last week that it planned to host a pop-up vaccine clinic at its Seattle headquarters starting Jan. 24 in conjunction with Virginia Mason Franciscan Health.
Amazon wrote Biden on Jan. 20 to offer its services in distributing vaccinations. "We are prepared to leverage our operations, information technology, and communications capabilities and expertise to assist your administration's vaccination efforts," Dave Clark, Amazon's CEO of worldwide consumer, said in the letter to the president.