The Biden administration is set to announce it will soon begin direct shipments of coronavirus vaccines to retail pharmacies, according to an official familiar with the matter, expanding points of access for Americans to receive shots.
The effort is part of the administration’s attempt to speed up vaccinations by making them available in more locations.
It isn’t immediately clear how many doses of the vaccine would be made available directly to pharmacies right away.
Administration officials planned to brief representatives from major pharmacy chains on Tuesday before announcing the plan publicly.
The White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeffrey Zients has a scheduled media briefing around noon, though the announcement on direct distribution to pharmacies could potentially come later.
“We expect the CDC will announce today that the retail pharmacy rollout will move forward next week,” according to an industry source.
The plan to expand vaccine availability in pharmacies has long been in the works and was a key component in the former Trump administration’s distribution plan as well. In some states, such as Maryland, those plans are underway, and pharmacies have already begun distributing vaccines.
Public health experts have said it’s critical to expand locations Americans can visit to get vaccinated, both to streamline distribution efforts but also to ensure the vaccine is available to a wider swath of the public as vaccine disparities emerge.
Adding new locations for vaccinations will only alleviate part of the problem, though. Vaccine supply remains extremely limited and the additional locations are likely to come as states are still clamoring for more doses.
Just last month, the new US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told NBC News that the early expansion to pharmacies wouldn’t mean every pharmacy, everywhere.
“I don’t think late February we’re going to have vaccine in every pharmacy in this country,” Walensky said.
This story is breaking and will be updated.