President Donald Trump’s administration secured a deal with CVS and Walgreens to distribute and administer a COVID-19 vaccine for free to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, the administration announced on Friday.
The deal relieves pressure on health departments and means residents and staff members at the facilities will be able to safely and efficiently get vaccinated once one or more vaccines are approved, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said in a press release.
“Protecting the vulnerable has been the number one priority of the Trump Administration’s response to COVID-19, and that commitment will continue through distributing a safe and effective vaccine earliest to those who need it most,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement.
“Our unprecedented public-private partnership with CVS and Walgreens will provide convenient and free vaccination to residents of nursing homes across America, another historic achievement in our efforts to get a safe and effective vaccine to Americans as fast as possible.”
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield called the partnership with CVS and Walgreens historic and said it “will truly help jurisdictions solve a logistical hurdle and decrease the burden of distributing, administering, and reporting COVID-19 vaccination for both states and long-term care facilities.”
The program will be free of charge to facilities and available for residents in all long-term care settings, including skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, residential care homes, and adult family homes.
Any staffers at the facilities will be able to get the vaccine at their workplaces, provided they have not at that time received it from elsewhere.
HHS said it was using “multiple authorities” to pay for the program.
CVS and Walgreens are tasked with scheduling and coordinating on-site clinic dates. It’s expected that most facilities will need three total visits over approximately two months.
“We are proud of how our pharmacists have continued to serve our patients and look forward to leveraging our nationwide footprint, community presence and pharmacist expertise to help administer COVID-19 vaccines, once they become available,” John Standley, Walgreens president, said in a statement.
“CVS Health has been on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19, working across the health care spectrum in all the communities we serve and that will continue to be the case when we have a vaccine to dispense,” Troy Brennan, chief medical officer for CVS Health, added.
Trump announced the partnership to an audience at Caloosa Sound Convention Center & Amphitheater in Fort Myers, Florida.
“Once you have that vaccine you can open those doors and say, ‘Here I am,’” Trump said.
America’s 54 million seniors “have borne the heaviest burden of the China virus,” including months of isolation and missing life events like church services and weddings, the president added, saying his message was one of confidence, optimism, and hope, and that the sacrifice of seniors would not be in vain.
“Seniors will be the first in line for the vaccine and we will soon be ending this pandemic,” he said.
Trump administration officials have said to expect approximately 100 million vaccine doses in an initial tranche that could be available by the end of October. The second tranche is projected at 200 million, available by the end of January 2021 if all goes well.
Trump, 74, just recovered from COVID-19. He said the development of COVID-19 treatments has caused the reduction of the mortality rate.
“Well, I’m here, I'll tell you,” he said, smiling, setting off a long round of applause and chants of “four more years.”