CVS, Walgreens Tapped To Dispense COVID-19 Vaccine

By Kevin Stawicki
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Law360 (October 16, 2020, 11:18 PM EDT) -- The Trump administration is partnering with CVS and Walgreens to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to long-term care facilities across the country through an opt-in process, a development that senior health officials said Friday signals how close the U.S. is to getting a safe vaccine.

As part of the vaccine campaign Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Defense said the "historic" partnership with Walgreens and CVS will allow the government to distribute vaccines to the most vulnerable populations — seniors — once a safe vaccine is available.

"This is yet another sign of how close we are to getting a safe and effective vaccine," Paul Mango, deputy chief of staff for policy at the HHS, said in a briefing with reporters Friday. "We fully anticipate Pfizer and Moderna will have data forthcoming on the performance of their vaccines very shortly."

Through the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, CVS and Walgreens will help skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes and residential care homes obtain the vaccine and supplies like syringes, needles and personal protective equipment. The companies will also schedule on-site visits, ensure cold-chain management, administer the vaccines and then provide all relevant data to the federal government, the agencies said.

Jay C. Butler, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's deputy director for infectious diseases, stressed that eligibility for the program is broad and that facilities can opt in through the CDC's National Safety Health Care Network. An alert will be going out on Monday to for facilities to opt in, Butler said. 

Once the facilities opt in to the program, they will then be able to bill insurers and Medicaid to recoup the administration costs.

"Those that choose not to participate in the program need to be prepared to have the resources to address all aspects of COVID-19 vaccination through their state health departments," Butler said.

CVS and Walgreens were selected because of their assets, mobile units and ability to reach all corners of the country to handle the distribution, Mango said, noting that other companies couldn't show that they had the capability to meet the distribution requirements.

"Today's historic pharmacy partnership 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," CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement.

The officials stressed Friday that the partnerships are not typical government contracts because there won't be a transfer of government resources to the companies if they don't provide the vaccines.

"There is no transfer of financial resources from the federal government to either of these two companies independent of them vaccinating seniors and getting the reimbursement," Mango said. "If no nursing home or senior living facility or assisted living facility in the country wanted to use CVS or Walgreens, they wouldn't get a penny."

"This isn't what we would consider a normal federal contract," he said. 

--Editing by Bruce Goldman.

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