Select Oregon pharmacies will begin offering COVID-19 vaccines to eligible Oregonians next week under a new distribution program.
The federal government will ship approximately 1 million vaccine doses directly to 6,500 pharmacies across the country as it launches the first phase of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, White House officials announced Tuesday. Pharmacies can begin vaccinations at no cost as soon as Feb. 11, officials said.
The White House is working with 21 national pharmacy partners and networks of independent pharmacies representing over 40,000 pharmacy locations nationwide, although not all partner pharmacies will receive doses during the program’s first phase.
Oregon’s share of doses will go to Costco, Health Mart Pharmacies and Albertsons Companies, which includes both Albertsons and Safeway stores. Until now, most vaccines have been administered at hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and special vaccination sites such as the Oregon Convention Center.
It’s not clear how many doses Oregon will receive next week or consistently. The Oregon Health Authority did not respond to requests for information Tuesday or Wednesday.
But Jill McGinnis, a spokesman for Albertsons, said that the company anticipates approximately 11,500 doses will be shipped to 115 Albertsons and Safeway pharmacies across Oregon next week, with roughly 100 doses going to each location. She said the number of vaccine doses that the corporation receives could change.
Oregonians currently eligible to receive vaccines under state guidelines will be able to sign up for appointments online through the company once it has the vaccines, McGinnis said.
Healthcare workers, people living in nursing homes and other congregate care settings, childcare providers and teachers are currently eligible to receive vaccines in Oregon. Elderly Oregonians will begin to become eligible to receive vaccines next week, with those over 80 eligible as of Feb. 8, according to guidance from the Oregon Health Authority.
Albertsons and Safeway posted information on vaccine availability and signups online at www.albertsons.com/COVID-19 and www.safeway.com/COVID-19. Appointment slots are not yet available because the company doesn’t have its vaccine allocation yet.
“Demand is high and appointments are often claimed very quickly, and we ask the public to remain patient,” McGinnis said. “As dose allocations increase, so too will the opportunity to secure an appointment. The company is kindly asking the public to please check the website first for the most up-to-date information, before calling your local store or pharmacy.”
A spokesman for Health Mart Pharmacies said it was not yet clear how many vaccine doses would be shipped to its Oregon pharmacies next week. Health Mart’s two locations are in Eugene and Creswell.
Costco declined to comment on their plans. There are 13 Costco stores across Oregon.
The White House said it chose pharmacies to receive the initial doses based on several factors, including their ability to reach populations most at risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Jeff Zients, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, told reporters Tuesday that the federal government viewed the first few weeks of the retail pharmacy program as a trial run. He said it could be scaled up over time, with doses eventually being shipped to roughly 40,000 pharmacies nationwide.