Walmart shoppers and employees could soon get the COVID-19 vaccine at its stores.
The big-box chain announced yesterday that it is preparing to administer the vaccine once one is approved by the United States government. According to chief medical officer Dr. Tom Van Gilder, the Bentonville, Ark.-based company will set up vaccination stations at 5,000 outposts and Sam’s Club locations, where it will also outfit pharmacies with freezers and dry ice to store the drug.
According to Van Gilder, 90% of the American population lives within 10 miles of a Walmart outpost. The retailer added that it is entering into agreements with states to be able to support vaccinations where needed.
“We will play an important part in making sure those who want a vaccine can get one when they are eligible based on their state’s prioritization, especially those in hard to reach parts of the country that have recently been hit hard by the epidemic,” he wrote in a post on Walmart’s website. “This year has shown us all how important our relationships are across the country and within our communities and how much our communities depend on our availability, service and support.”
With the announcement, Walmart joins retailers like Costco, Kroger, Stop & Shop, CVS and Walgreens in gearing up for mass inoculations. Currently, there are six COVID-19 vaccine candidates — including the doses from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and biotechnology firm BioNTech, which a Food and Drug Administration panel has recommended for emergency use. It marks the last step before a final approval, which would allow the vaccine’s broader distribution across the country.
Following the FDA’s OK, the federal government will allocate the vaccine to states, and states will then determine who will receive the first doses of the vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has recommended that health-care workers as well as residents and workers in long-term care facilities get inoculated before the general public. According to Johns Hopkins University researchers, more than 15.61 million people in the U.S. have been sickened by the virus, and at least 292,100 deaths have been recorded.