Large distributors like Walmart, Costco or Publix participate in the vaccination program. With two million weekly doses allocated to 40,000 pharmacies, supermarkets or large networks, the objective is to cover the areas least well served by other distribution channels.
Between crisps and packs of beer from the Publix supermarket in Pensacola, north Florida, Mark, 67, is about to receive his second dose of Moderna vaccine against Covid-19. The supermarket vaccinates up to 85 people every day, who have registered in advance on its website. Larry, who accompanies his brother in a wheelchair, has already been vaccinated, going at the end of the day to a nearby supermarket who didn’t want to waste the few doses he had left after having cancellations.
“We are open to anyone eligible for the vaccine in Florida, that is, those over 65 and healthcare workers. And we rather have a big demand, ” says Alyssa, a technician from the Publix pharmacy. In the United States, a pharmacy is often integrated with the supermarket. It is also a young 19-year-old cashier, Ty, who runs the reception desk for vaccine candidates, on a simple table placed in front of the pharmacy. She is on the move with other Publix cashiers. And this is a good opportunity for her: she would like to work in reception in a hospital.
Supermarkets are now an integral part of the American vaccine strategy. Since his arrival at the White House, Joe Biden has committed the sending of 1 million doses per week to twenty pharmacy networks in the country: large drugstores like CVS or Walgreens, which are used to vaccinating every year against the flu , but also the major American distributors like Walmart , Costco or Publix.
A public-private partnership which represents a total of 40,000 distribution points. And the weekly allowance was doubled in mid-February, to two million doses. States, which now receive nearly 15 million doses per week, can also directly allocate part of their vaccines to pharmacies.
Only place 150 kilometers away
If supermarkets will not compete with mega sites that can vaccinate up to 10,000 people per day in large cities, they have the advantage of finely meshed the territory. The country’s leading distributor, Walmart and its subsidiary Sam’s Club offer the vaccine in a thousand pharmacies in 22 states of the country, or about one in five stores in its network, in the most rural states.
The objective is thus to reach the populations most at risk, and in the territories least covered by the other distribution channels – health centers, hospitals … In the neighboring state of Alabama, one of the pharmacies Walmart in Brewton is billed as the only vaccination location within 150 kilometers.
Ambitions in health
In spite of everything, obstacles persist in accessing the most disadvantaged populations. Online registration on supermarket websites requires, for example, to have access to an internet connection. And to book a vaccination, Walmart asks its site to create an account – but not its subsidiary Sam’s Club.
Faced with the exorbitant cost of healthcare costs in the United States, certain large distribution chains have strong ambitions in the sector. Walmart in particular launched in Georgia a year and a half the pilot of a new concept of low-cost health center.