Expert: Pharmacists Are ‘The Heroes of 2021,’ Leading the Charge on Helping to Heal Our Nation


The efforts of pharmacists to keep their doors open during the pandemic, build COVID-19 testing sites, and prepare for and administer COVID-19 vaccinations took extraordinary investment and determination.

Health care affordability and the prevention of drug abuse are critically important to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), making these topics the focus of a discussion led by Steven C. Anderson, FASAE, CAE, IOM, president and CEO, NACDS, during a session at the NACDS 2021 Annual Meeting.

This year, Anderson noted that NACDS is able to look back and see how pharmacy’s role in health care has been redefined in light of the pharmacist’s role in saving the lives of millions of Americans through their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have redefined for the ages what it means to save lives, to serve consumers in times of need, and to provide a truly essential health and wellness destination—all because of your response to fighting COVID-19,” Anderson said during the session.

Anderson explained that the past year has been one of empowering pharmacies, of overcoming needless barriers, and of securing and enhancing the authority of pharmacy teams to test and vaccinate.

At the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, NACDS met with the CDC and member companies to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and how pharmacies would respond.

“The message from the government was this: Do whatever it takes to stay open. From the very beginning, the CDC wanted to keep pharmacies open, and that’s a credit to you,” Anderson said during the session to an audience of its pharmacy members. “They know that pharmacies and stores are critical. They know that access to medications, health and wellness products, food, and consumer goods is vital. They were counting on you and your team to get the job done. That was March 13, 2020.”

Anderson explained that since that meeting with the CDC, there has been a revelation as to the pharmacy industry’s power to serve, to safeguard, and to heal. Then in January 2021, a story was published highlighting this power in Bloomberg News.

“The story ran with this headline: ‘If They Nail Vaccinations, Drugstores Will Be the Heroes of 2021,’ and that means drugstores, pharmacies, grocery, mass retail, and regional and national [pharmacy] companies alike,” Anderson said during the session. “The article delivers unmistakable clarity: The heroes of 2021. And make no mistake, this has been a moment where we’ve really needed some heroes.”

Anderson explained further that the efforts of pharmacists to keep their doors open during the pandemic, build COVID-19 testing sites, and prepare for and administer COVID-19 vaccinations took extraordinary investment and determination.

“NACDS has been honored to make the case to help soften the ground,” Anderson said. “We told the nation that pharmacies can give 100 million shots in 30 days, a conservative estimate. Today, the fact is that we still have capacity, and we can do more.”

In light of this, Anderson noted that the 2021 NACDS Annual Meeting pays tribute to all that pharmacists are accomplishing on behalf of the American people across the country to help the nation heal.

“NACDS is aligned in our conviction that there are lessons to be learned from this pandemic, and we owe it to our teams, to our companies, to our communities, to all Americans, and to the nation, to ensure decisionmakers everywhere understand and act on these lessons,” Anderson said during the session. “By realizing that it’s time, we will loosen the grip of this pandemic, and it will be a new day for all Americans.”


Anderson SC, Paley L, Keyes R, Gottlieb S. Business Program I. National Association of Chain Drug Stores Annual Meeting 2021; April 26, 2021; virtual. Accessed April 28, 2021.

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