HENRICO, Va. (WRIC) — As the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out across the nation, neighborhood drug stores are moving full steam ahead to help people get vaccinated. On Tuesday, Walgreens unveiled its plan to help distribute the vaccine and continue the fight against the virus.
Kevin Ban, Chief Medical Officer of Walgreens, was interviewed by 8News this afternoon and said the vaccine should be available to the general public in a few months and Walgreens will be distributing it.
“Our vaccine program has been around for over 15 years,” Ban said. “We have a robust infrastructure that we are going to lean into.”
Ban went on to say, right now they are following CDC guidelines and supporting health care systems across the U.S., however next week they will be administering the vaccine to those at risk. He says there is no favoritism and that all of the states are receiving the vaccine based off of population.
“When it pertains to the long-term care facilities, states have taken their allocation and given the vaccines to us,” Ban told 8News. “Then we will be sure that we have the vaccines we need to go into these long-term care facilities.”
Starting on Monday, December 21, hundreds of Walgreens team members will be going into long-term care facilities and giving doses to both residents and staff members.
According to the Virginia Department of Health’s COVID Vaccination Priorities, “The majority of long-term care facilities in Virginia will receive vaccinations from CVS and Walgreens’ teams onsite through a federal CDC-pharmacy-LTCF partnership.”
The majority of COVID-19 vaccines will require two doses, according to the CDC. The first shot will start building protection, and the second shot will help provide the most protection the vaccine offers.
The drug store chain has been preparing for months to distribute the vaccine. Walgreens has hired thousands of staff members since the pandemic began to run operate ‘COVID Clinics’. The coronavirus vaccine is rare in that it must be kept stored in ultra-cold freezers, at -94 degrees. Ban told 8News Walgreens has set-up major and minor hubs for storage that include special deep freezers and dry-ice.
Right now, vaccinations are in phase one, but phase two will be the general public — 8News asked Ban when the vaccine will be available for the general population.
“We expect that will happen in just a few months,” Ban said. “The first phase is health care workers and long-term care facilities. That will be expanded to essential workers and to people with chronic medical problems. We believe we can get all those people vaccinated by February and beginning of March.”
Ban added that if everything goes according to plan, the public will be able to walk through the doors of Walgreens and get a COVID-19 vaccine, just like a seasonal flu-shot, in early April.
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