How CVS and different retailers hand out extra doses of Covid vaccine

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A health care worker wearing a protective mask fills a syringe with a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a major vaccination site in Sacramento, California on February 4, 2021.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

As the Covid-19 vaccine effort begins at large retailers and pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens, what to do with excess vaccine becomes a bigger question.

Both versions of the vaccine must be stored at very low temperatures. Once thawed, the vaccine must be administered within hours. In addition, vaccine bottles contain multiple doses.

Companies told the Wall Street Journal that they are planning to use waiting lists and are considering vaccinating employees who are eligible when excess supplies become available. The aim is to avoid wasting doses that are still scarce.

Starting Thursday, vaccine doses will be sent to thousands of pharmacies and grocery stores such as CVS and Walmart in the US. This move starts with around 6,500 retail locations and will help accelerate adoption to ensure more Americans are protected from Covid-19.

The companies schedule appointments based on the amount of vaccine they receive at each location. However, you could get an excess vaccine if customers don’t show up for an appointment or if a vaccine bottle contains more vaccine than expected.

Currently, only two vaccines, one from Pfizer-BioNTech and one from Moderna, have received approval for emergency use from the Food and Drug Administration. Both types require two doses of the shot to be effective.

Retailers must adhere to different state and local rules for licensing requirements when managing waiting lists and what to do with excess doses. In some states, retail workers qualify for the vaccine, while in other states they are not considered a high priority group unless they are over a certain age or have a specific illness.

A Walmart spokeswoman told the newspaper that the retailer has reached out to buyers or workers who qualify under a state’s guidelines to get vaccinated in the event of oversupply.

Walmart was working with state health departments on protocols to avoid waste, a Walmart spokesman told CNBC. These protocols allow the administration of excess opened and available doses to individuals, including employees, who fall under authorized groups in order of priority.

A Walgreens spokesperson told CNBC that they will be considering their staff for the remaining doses and will communicate with state and local jurisdictions about any excess doses.

In the meantime, CVS pharmacists will keep a list of qualified patients by state and use that list to determine who will receive the remaining doses of the vaccine, CVS Health senior vice president Chris Cox told CNBC.

Read the full story in the Wall Street Journal.

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