(WAVY) — President Joe Biden has been working to ramp up COVID-19 vaccinations — with the goal of 200 million shots in his first 100 days in office — and said pharmacies would play a role in making this happen.
Biden instructed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to begin a program to make vaccines available through local pharmacies in February.
Major pharmacies CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens and Walmart have all said they will be offering the COVID-19 vaccine to those who qualify to receive it, as soon as they have it available for administering.
CVS kicked off February with news that it would offer the COVID-19 vaccine at select Virginia pharmacy locations starting on the 11. The rollout in Virginia didn’t happen smoothly due to a combination of technological and communication errors.
Patients will be required to register in advance at CVS.com or through the CVS Pharmacy app.
Currently in Virginia, groups in 1a and 1b are eligible to get vaccinated. Some localities have moved into 1c as well.
The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has created a statewide vaccine questionnaire where you can enter your information to find out which phase you fall under. When your vaccine phase is available, VDH will contact you to verify your eligibility and coordinate when you can receive your shot.
Not sure which phase your local health district falls under? There’s a map for that.
On Feb. 16, Virginia launched a new statewide vaccine pre-registration system. Click here to access that site.
At this time, the COVID-19 vaccine is only approved for those 16 years of age and older. Children under the age of 16 will be offered vaccines only after the vaccine is tested and authorized by FDA for use in children.
Here’s where the COVID-19 vaccine availability at pharmacies stands now:
CVS has been doling out doses to nursing facilities and other long term care facilities for a couple months, but is offering COVID-19 vaccine appointments at pharmacy locations as part of an 11-state rollout. Virginia is among those states.
CVS said beginning February 11, the COVID-19 vaccine would be available at approximately 28 locations in Virginia, including several in Hampton Roads.
As soon as the vaccine distribution is expanded in the Hampton Roads region, customers will be able to make an appointment using the CVS app and will be prompted to make an appointment for their second dose at the same time. You can also visit this page to check eligibility.
The company said it expects the vaccine to be available to the general public sometime in March or April.
The vaccine will be available at no cost through your insurance or a government program for the uninsured.
Rite Aid, through a partnership with the CDC, says it is “staged and ready” to make the COVID-19 vaccine available at all store locations as soon as it is available for pharmacy distribution.
That said, Rite Aid stores in Chesapeake are currently the only ones in Virginia distributing COVID-19 vaccinations. That’s because their doses are coming from the local health department’s weekly allotment, rather than through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program that gives vaccine doses to stores like CVS.
However, you must use a Rite Aid scheduling portal, accessed off the Chesapeake Health Department’s website to request a shot. Calling a store directly will not land you an appointment.
“The COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed in 3 phases. We are currently in Phase 1. Retail pharmacies will likely have access to COVID-19 vaccine during Phase 2 and Phase 3,” it states on their website.
Once the vaccine is available, it will be offered at no cost, through appointment only.
Rite Aid is seeking to fill over 2,000 new pharmacy roles to administer COVID-19 vaccines under Phase 2 of the CDC’s roll-out plan. Go to www.careers.riteaid.com for more information.
Meanwhile, Rite Aid announced that it is expanding its COVID-19 TESTING to all remaining drive-through store locations. An additional 441 no-charges sites are opening on Feb. 12. Click here for the full list of testing sites and to schedule an appointment.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services selected Walgreens to provide a limited number of COVID-19 vaccinations across 15 states and jurisdictions as part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.
Those jurisdictions include: Chicago, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, New York City, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, Vermont, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
“A priority will be to get the vaccine to minority communities that have suffered a disproportionately high toll of disease and deaths from the virus,” said the White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients.
The COVID-19 vaccine will be available in stores Feb. 12 to eligible individuals based on state and jurisdiction guidelines, and may include healthcare workers, people ages 65 and older, and individuals with pre-existing conditions.
Those who are eligible to receive the vaccine can schedule vaccination appointments through the Walgreens app or online at this link.
Walgreens has been providing the COVID-19 vaccine to skilled nursing facilities. The company completed the administration of COVID-19 vaccine first doses in skilled nursing facilities on Monday, Jan. 25 and says it expects to complete first dose vaccinations in assisted living and other long-term care facilities that selected Walgreens as their vaccine provider by mid-February.
On Jan. 22, Walgreens said it has administered more than 1 million COVID-19 vaccinations across long-term care facilities and other vulnerable populations.
“Since receiving our first allotments of vaccines in late December, Walgreens has remained on track in vaccinating our most vulnerable populations, and we are steadfast in our commitment to accelerating access to COVID-19 vaccines as we receive additional guidance from state governments and jurisdictions,” said John Standley, president, Walgreens. “Walgreens takes immense pride in being a part of protecting our communities from COVID-19 and helping the country take this first step toward emerging from this pandemic.”
Walgreens says it will continue to work with states as they finalize their Phase 1b and 1c plans to administer COVID-19 vaccines to additional vulnerable populations.
VDH announced in late January that it has expanded its partnership with Walgreens to provide the rapid antigen testing at select locations. This expands the number of locations with drive-thru no cost COVID-19 testing from four to 15 stores.
The company released this video about COVID-19 health disparities.
Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies are vaccinating eligible populations throughout Virginia at 74 Walmart sites and seven Sam’s Clubs.
Vaccines are available to those in the current groups eligible in the state. That information can be found here.
To schedule an appointment through Walmart or Sam’s Club, visit their scheduling websites.
In addition to appointments, the scheduler gives a digital reminder when it is time to return for the second vaccine.
People do not have to be a member of Sam’s Club to sign-up for an appointment. Appointments are available seven days a week, but exact timing will vary based on local availability of the vaccine.