A Rite Aid store is on display in downtown Los Angeles, California, United States on October 16, 2019. The picture was taken on October 16, 2019.
Mike Blake | Reuters
Heyward Donigan, CEO of Rite Aid, said she anticipates retailers will soon play a bigger – and earlier – role in the adoption of Covid-19 vaccines as states and counties are under pressure to accelerate the pace .
The vaccines will be distributed in phases, with priority given to vulnerable Americans such as healthcare workers and nursing home residents.
Rite Aid is expected to be part of the second phase when footage becomes available to the general public, such as those who do not qualify because of their age, occupation or underlying medical conditions, Donigan said at the JP Morgan Healthcare virtual conference Monday. The company is one of at least 19 drug and grocery stores that have partnered with the U.S. Department of Health to get the recordings in their stores.
“I think this is going to come up faster and faster,” she said.
So far, the pace of Covid vaccines has been slower than expected. The U.S. has distributed around 22.1 million doses, and as of Friday, nearly 6.7 million people received their first shot – well below the country’s original goal of immunizing at least 20 million people by the end of 2020.
The rollout has been broken, with those who have priority to get the vaccine vary greatly from state to state and county to county. In some parts of Florida, demand has far exceeded supply, creating long lines and frustration. However, at some vaccination sites in New York state, eligible recipients have declined shots or skipped their appointments, and Covid vaccines have ended up in the trash.
Rite Aid has had more than 5,000 Covid vaccinations to date and has seen these challenges firsthand, Donigan said.
“If you open a bottle and only one person wants a dose that day, you have to figure out what to do with the rest of the vial,” she said. “It is extremely difficult to figure out how to find the right people, who are most vulnerable at this moment of the day, without losing things.”
CVS Health and Walgreens, who are also planning to record in their branches, are involved in an earlier phase of the rollout. Companies began delivering vaccines to employees and residents of thousands of nursing homes and assisted living facilities in mid-December. They said they plan to complete the first round of long-term care facility admissions by January 25th.
The Covid vaccinations could give drug stores a financial boost and allow them to showcase changes they have made to their stores. Not only are they getting paid to fire the shots, but businesses could also benefit from more foot traffic in their stores – especially as consumers limit store trips and fill larger baskets during the pandemic.
Jefferies upgraded CVS’s stock rating to buy it on Friday, and said his role in the vaccination effort could bring about additional gross profits of approximately $ 1 billion over the next 12 months.
Rite Aid hasn’t yet forecast the vaccine’s impact, but COO Jim Peters said it will be included in its forecast for the next fiscal year.