The White House on Tuesday announced the rollout of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program to distribute one million vaccines per week to Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, and other pharmacy chains starting February 11.
The initiative is designed to help President Joe Biden's campaign promise of administering 100 million shots in 100 days.
Nate Boutte, pharmacy manager for Walgreens, told Cheddar the company is more than ready to distribute any available vaccines across its network of 9,000 stores. "We were literally built for this, so it won't really be a problem per se for us to get our patients into our stores and get them the vaccine as it becomes available," he said.
The annual flu season in particular has prepared the chain for getting jabs into arms on a mass scale. Boutte said the effort will be "very, very similar" to what it does each year.
The chain's footprint will also help it execute quickly on the federal plan. Boutte pointed out that there is a Walgreens within five miles of 80 percent of the U.S. population.
"Walgreens has really always been a leader, especially in getting into underserved communities," he said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention helped select the pharmacy partners by looking at their experience in reaching the populations most vulnerable to COVID-19. The White House has not yet provided details on how the initial phase will be distributed geographically.
Boutte advised viewers to visit walgreens.com/schedulevaccine to determine eligibility and get state-by-state information on when the vaccine will be available.
"We don't want to confuse eligibility with availability. Just because you're eligible we may or may not have the vaccine available at the time," he said. "We're getting it as fast as they're getting it to us."
For the moment, Walgreens only has access to the Moderna vaccine, which requires two doses, but Boutte recognized the potential value of a one-dose vaccine such as those AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are seeking to distribute.
"Having a vaccine where you can get it in one dose, of course, it would be amazing," he said.
The full list of partnering pharmacies is available here.
Walgreens will receive its first shipment of vaccines on February 12.