To support the successful reopening of the country in a manner that prevents further coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreaks, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) has issued a report in which it urges government action on 3 key objectives related to testing, contact tracing, and vaccines or treatments.1

The national organization, which represents 40,000 traditional, grocery, and mass retail pharmacies and employs 155,000 pharmacists, outlines the following operational considerations for the government in its report:1
 
  1. Maximize rapid COVID-19 testing operations across all platforms and venues.
  2. Support public health surveillance and related contact tracing efforts.
  3. Prepare now to accelerate access to forthcoming COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

The report explains that in the approach to each of these operational considerations, state and federal governments should strive for uniformity in order to allow private sector partners to seamlessly participate. As some private sector partners operate in multiple states, a state-by-state approach would hinder companies’ abilities to effectively participate in enacting company-wide operational efforts.1

Furthermore, the report emphasizes that community pharmacies must remain a critical component of the COVID-19 response, since they have been able to collaborate with public health officials and inform them of information that remains necessary for state health and economic decisions.1

“As our nation moves forward, we proffer that federal and state governments should enhance engagement with pharmacies across the response continuum from scaling community testing to executing a national pandemic immunization plan,” the NACDS explained in the report.1

Once COVID-19 vaccines and treatments become available, the NACDS explained that retail pharmacies would be able to help vaccinate 80% of the population 7 weeks earlier than would be possible otherwise, according to a study conducted by the CDC. Since 90% of Americans live within 5 miles of a retail pharmacy, the report adds that pharmacies’ accessibility will be incredibly valuable.1

Furthermore, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is meeting on June 24, at which time the NACDS recommends that the committee takes action to permit all pharmacists to provide a forthcoming COVID-19 vaccine. The NACDS also outlines further recommendations for the ACIP to consider for a vaccination program that would take place across the country.1

In regard to COVID-19 testing, the NACDS recommended several policy barriers to be removed; the inclusion of pharmacist-provided testing in state Medicaid programs; partnerships among pharmacies, local businesses, and public health officials facilitated by states; and the management of coverage and reimbursement issues that can scale and sustain testing programs.1

Ultimately, the NACDS urged the government to establish a national program that allows private and public partnerships to collaborate in order to provide a single access point for COVID-19 data, which mirrors the recent strategy detailed by NIH officials last week.1

“As states consider recovery plans to safely reopen, we urge them to recognize the tremendous value of pharmacies and remove any remaining barriers and limitations on accessing COVID-19 testing and forthcoming treatment and vaccines,” the NACDS states in the report. “States should deploy pharmacies and pharmacists to their fullest extent to contain and defeat the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure the health of communities and the health of our nation.”1

REFERENCES
  1. National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS). Pharmacies: A Vital Partner in Reopening America. NACDS website. nacds.org/pdfs/government/2020/Pharmacies-Reopening-America-COVID-19-NACDS-May2020.pdf. Published May 2020. Accessed May 18, 2020.
  2. NACDS - Representing 40,000 pharmacies with 155,000 Pharmacists - Issues New COVID-19 Report on Reopening America [news release]. Washington, DC: National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS); May 15, 2020. prweb.com/releases/nacds_representing_40_000_pharmacies_with_155_000_pharmacists_issues_new_covid_19_report_on_reopening_america/prweb17125596.htm. Accessed May 18, 2020.