The Covid vaccine can be given in “protected and handy places,” assures Walgreens Government

Rick Gates, senior vice president of pharmacy and healthcare at Walgreens, assured CNBC that the company will deliver Covid vaccines safely and efficiently.

“We will make sure our health professionals are there to give them the vaccine and adequately monitor them,” Gates said Tuesday evening in The News with Shepard Smith. “No, it won’t be in parking lots, you will see it in our stores, but we will make sure we have safe and appropriate places for the vaccinations.”

President Joe Biden’s administration announced Tuesday that it would expand access to Covid vaccines and distribute them directly to retail pharmacies next week. It’s all part of the government’s efforts to make it faster and easier for Americans to get vaccinated.

Gates told host Shepard Smith that Walgreens currently supports about 15 states and jurisdictions, which means the company will receive “about 170,000 cans” for the first part of the launch.

White House Covid Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said the process will start slowly as 6,500 pharmacies receive 1 million doses. CVS and Walgreens alone will receive shipments in 20 states. Sales will eventually expand.

“Since we can increase the offer, up to 40,000 pharmacies nationwide could offer Covid-19 vaccinations,” said Zients on Tuesday.

According to a survey by Dynata, a leading first-party insights platform, nearly half of respondents would start taking the vaccine as soon as it becomes available.

The push comes in the face of a new urgency to vaccinate as many Americans as possible to prevent the spread of potentially more serious strains of the virus. More than 95,000 Americans died from Covid in January alone, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins data. April 2020 was the second highest month and 60,716 Americans died from the virus.

Gates said the past few months have been a learning experience to enable the company to look into administering the Covid vaccine following criticism from New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D). Murphy blamed Walgreens for the Garden State’s sluggish vaccine rollout during a Jan. 20 interview in The News with Shepard Smith.

“The main reason is the federal program with CVS and Walgreens,” Murphy said. “They basically amassed these cans, they are planning visits to long-term care homes, they are extending their lives and they are suffering from their weight, especially at Walgreens, and that is where most of the remaining cans are.”

Gates said he knew it wouldn’t go perfectly in the beginning, but the rollout for long-term care facilities has accelerated.

“What we saw was a run-up of it that has been going on pretty religiously ever since,” said Gates. “We vaccinated about a million long-term care residents in the first month and about a million in the last week alone, so you’ve seen a significant increase in our activity.”

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