The Trump administration has struck a deal with pharmacies across the nation to make the COVID-19 vaccine available more widely and with no out-of-pocket costs.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Nov. 12 announced that the arrangement would involve both large chain pharmacies and networks representing independent pharmacies and regional chains.
“We are leveraging the existing private sector infrastructure to get safe and effective vaccines supported by Operation Warp Speed into communities and into arms as quickly as possible with no out-of-pocket costs," said HHS Secretary Alex Azar.
Operation Warp Speed is the Trump administration's broad-based effort involving federal agencies and the private sector to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.
Partnering with networks will expand vaccine availability to traditionally underserved areas through regional chains and independent pharmacies.
"The vast majority of Americans live within five miles of a pharmacy, and our new agreement with pharmacy partners across America is a critical step toward making sure all Americans have access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines when they are available,” Azar added.
The HHS noted that pharmacies not covered by the deal are being encouraged to coordinate with local health departments to provide the COVID-19 vaccine more widely.
“Ensuring access and affordability of the COVID-19 vaccine for all Americans is a top priority for the Trump Administration,” Azar said.
While there are currently no COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized or approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the pharmacy partnership was launched in anticipation of one or more vaccines being approved by the end of the year.
The companies said they expect to apply for emergency use authorization sometime in November, raising the chance of a regulatory decision as soon as December.
“Today is a great day for science and humanity,” Pfizer’s Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said in a Nov. 9 statement.
“We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity, and economies struggling to reopen,” he added.