Steven C. Anderson, FASAE, CAE, IOM, president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, has been invited to join the office of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Vaccine Consultation Panel (VCP).

The panel aims to assist HHS in developing and implementing a vaccine for COVID-19. According to a press release, the panel is made up of external leaders in various communities, all of which must collaborate to launch the vaccine.

“Producing a [COVID-19] vaccine is one piece of the task, but another critical component is ensuring public understanding, acceptance, and participation in any eventual vaccine campaign,” said the invitation from HHS Secretary Alex Azar, JD, to Anderson, according to a press release. “It is on this later challenge that I and our senior leaders in HHS could use your unique insight and expertise.”

Participants in the panel receive periodic updates from HHS leaders regarding the development and distribution progress of the vaccine. Each member is also expected to share the questions, concerns, and needs of the constituencies with HHS leaders.

“The goal of the VCP is not to reach ‘consensus,’ but to better understand how we can reach and educate our citizens with a successful vaccine campaign,” the letter said.

The press release from NACDS emphasized that the invitation represents the strong trust placed in pharmacies and pharmacists, as well as the vital role pharmacists will play once the vaccine is available.

“Maximizing pharmacy’s preparedness and impact throughout the pandemic is critical to the national response,” Anderson said in the statement. “There is a pharmacy within 5 miles of 90% of all Americans, and the accessibility of these health destinations will prove essential for the fast and efficient rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as for the rapidly approaching need to vaccinate for the flu and to help Americans return to their normal vaccination schedules.”

Anderson added that according to CDC data, 80% of people can be vaccinated 7 weeks sooner when pharmacists are included in the vaccination plan during a pandemic situation.

NACDS Invited to Join Health and Human Services’ Federal Vaccine Consultation Panel [news release]. National Association of Chain Drug Stores; July 20, 2020. Accessed July 21, 2020.