Following the announcement from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding the US government’s partnerships with national and regional chain pharmacies and independent pharmacies to maximize access to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) and the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) both released statements applauding the decision.1-3

The HHS announcement explained that the partnerships with pharmacy chains allow for the coverage of approximately 60% of pharmacies throughout the country, whereas the partnerships with independent pharmacies will allow for wider coverage, especially in traditionally underserved areas.1

“We are leveraging the existing private sector infrastructure to get safe and effective vaccines supported by Operation Warp Speed into communities and into arms as quickly as possible with no out-of-pocket costs. The vast majority of Americans live within 5 miles of a pharmacy, and our new agreement with pharmacy partners across America is a critical step toward making sure all Americans have access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines when they are available,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar in the HHS announcement.1

NACDS President and CEO Steven C. Anderson, FASAE, CAE, IOM, issued a statement on the importance of the HHS announcement, which highlights the country’s acknowledgement of the critical role of the pharmacist in the fight against COVID-19.2

“This announcement reflects continued progress to put the trust, accessibility and professionalism of pharmacies and pharmacists to work for the American people—including the traditionally underserved—through the administration of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccinations when they are available,” Anderson said in the statement.2

NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey, MBA, released a statement that noted the importance of the inclusion of independent pharmacies in this announcement from the HHS.3

“We are pleased that independent pharmacy groups will be included in the program to distribute COVID-19 vaccines,” Hoey said in the statement. “We expect many other independent pharmacies to be included as the program expands.”3

Hoey also explained that the inclusion of independent pharmacies within this announcement came after months of correspondence between NCPA and HHS regarding why it is necessary for community pharmacies to have access to COVID-19 vaccines when they become available.3

“Community pharmacies outnumber any of the largest chains, and they very often serve populations for whom there are no other accessible health care providers,” Hoey said in the statement. “Defeating COVID-19 means relying on community pharmacies. Based on what we are hearing from our members and industry partners, the lead federal agencies see community pharmacy as a critical part of their plan for fighting the disease.”3

The NACDS also noted the hard work of its national and regional members in preparing for the availability of COVID-19 vaccines in order to effectively support the country at this critical time of need.2

“National and regional pharmacies alike will be partnering at the federal and state levels in this historic vaccination initiative. As we have seen throughout the pandemic, it also will be critical to continue to anticipate, identify, and resolve any nagging barriers that stand in the way of efficient administration of COVID-19 vaccinations and other services that are essential to the American people. NACDS members maintain a proactive footing in engaging with federal and state government leaders in that important work,” Anderson said.2

Anderson explained further that this announcement acts as a sign of the progress the country is making to bring the COVID-19 pandemic to an end.2

“Pharmacies and pharmacists will continue to help Americans stay healthy and to help restore the economy and job creation. HHS’ announcement is another crucial advancement in the fight against this virus, and it will precede more and more progress in the future involving more and more pharmacies, pharmacists, and pharmacy team members,” Anderson said.2

Hoey echoed this point, noting specifically the critical role of community pharmacists in supporting the health and wellness of Americans so that the country can get back to some semblance of normality post-pandemic.3

“The vaccine program is a key to defeating COVID-19, and defeating the virus is the key to our economy,” Hoey said in the statement. “From the start of the pandemic, community pharmacists have been on the front lines, taking care of their patients as essential health care providers. It is very good news for the country that HHS has included community pharmacies in its vaccine distribution program.”3

REFERENCES
  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Trump Administration Partners with Chain and Independent Community Pharmacies to Increase Access to Future COVID-19 Vaccines. HHS website. hhs.gov/about/news/2020/11/12/trump-administration-partners-chain-independent-community-pharmacies-increase-access-future-covid-19-vaccines.html. Published November 12, 2020. Accessed November 19, 2020.
  2. NACDS Lauds Preparedness and Dedication of Diverse Pharmacies, Pharmacists and Pharmacy Teams Upon HHS’ Announcement about Their Role in COVID-19 Vaccinations. Arlington, VA: NACDS; November 13, 2020. nacds.org/news/nacds-lauds-preparedness-and-dedication-of-diverse-pharmacies-pharmacists-and-pharmacy-teams-upon-hhs-announcement-about-their-role-in-covid-19-vaccinations/. Accessed November 19, 2020.
  3. NCPA Lauds HHS for Including Community Pharmacies in COVID-19 Vaccine Program. Arlington, VA: NCPA; November 11, 2020. ncpa.org/newsroom/news-releases/2020/11/11/ncpa-lauds-hhs-including-community-pharmacies-covid-19-vaccine. Accessed November 19, 2020.