Rick Gates, senior vice president of pharmacy and healthcare at Walgreens, assured CNBC that the company will safely and efficiently administer Covid vaccines.
“We’ll make sure our health care professionals are there to give them the vaccine and monitor them appropriately,” Gates said Tuesday evening on “The News with Shepard Smith.” “No, it’s not going to be out in parking lots, you’ll see it in our stores, but we’ll make sure we’ll have safe and appropriate places to do the vaccinations.”
President Joe Biden‘s administration announced Tuesday that it will expand access to Covid vaccines and start distributing them directly to retail pharmacies next week. It’s all part of the administration’s effort to make it faster and easier for American’s to get vaccinated.
Gates told host Shepard Smith that Walgreens is currently supporting about 15 states and jurisdictions, which means the company will receive “about 170,000 doses” for the first part of the launch.
White House Covid response coordinator Jeff Zients said the process will start out slow, with 6,500 pharmacies receiving 1 million doses. CVS and Walgreens alone will get deliveries across 20 states. Distribution will ultimately expand.
“Eventually as we’re able to increase supply, up to 40,000 pharmacies nationwide could provide Covid-19 vaccinations,” Zients said Tuesday.
According to a survey from Dynata, a leading first-party insights platform, nearly half of respondents would take the vaccine immediately once it became available.
The push comes amid new urgency to get as many Americans vaccinated 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 of the virus.
Gates explained that the past few months have been a learning experience to help equip the company to deal with administering the Covid vaccine in the wake of criticism from New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D). Murphy blamed Walgreens for the Garden State’s sluggish vaccine rollout during a Jan. 20 interview on “The News with Shepard Smith.”
“The big reason is the federal program with CVS and Walgreens,” said Murphy. “They basically amassed these doses, they schedule visits to long-term care nursing homes, extended living, and they’re punching under their weight, particularly Walgreens, and that’s where most of the yet to be used doses are.”
Gates said that he knew it wouldn’t run perfectly at the beginning, but that rollout for long-term care facilities has accelerated.
“What we saw was a ramp-up of that, that has continued pretty religiously since that point,” 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 have seen a significant ramp-up in what we’re doing.”