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Federal government to ship Covid vaccines to retail pharmacies next week

The initial shipment of 1 million doses will go to 6,500 stores across the country beginning on Feb. 11.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. will begin shipping doses of the Covid-19 vaccine directly to retail pharmacies next week, as the Biden administration expands how and where Americans can get inoculated.

The initial shipment of 1 million doses will go to 6,500 stores starting Feb. 11, said Jeffrey Zients, the Biden administration’s Covid-19 coordinator.

States were left by the Trump administration to devise their own distribution plans and some opted to use retail pharmacies in their states to help administer the vaccine to certain groups, like health care workers.

Pharmacies that receive the vaccine directly from the federal government will still need to follow their state's guidelines to determine which populations should receive the injections. Americans should check their local pharmacy's website to make an appointment if they fall into one of their state’s priority groups, he said.

The first pharmacies to receive the vaccine from the federal government will be those that are best situated to reach people at high risk for severe illness and “socially vulnerable” populations, said Zients.

Eventually, 40,000 pharmacies across the country will receive shipments of the vaccine, but Zients didn't say when he expected that to happen. Until now, hospitals and state health departments have been administering the vast majority of vaccinations.

“The initial phase of activating local pharmacies will get more shots in arms,” Zients said. “It will ensure that pharmacies have the infrastructure and the experience they need to scale up when vaccine supply increases in the months ahead.”

CVS said Tuesday that it will receive 250,000 of those doses from the federal government next week. The nationwide chain plans to begin giving vaccinations at 300 of its stores, including 100 in California and 70 in Texas. CVS has 10,000 stores nationwide.

In addition to the 1 million doses the administration plans to ship to retail pharmacies, it also plans to send 10.5 million doses a week for the next three weeks to state governments. The Biden administration has increased the number of doses being sent to the states by 20 percent since taking over the vaccine distribution program on Jan. 20.

President Joe Biden has committed to giving at least 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office and said he hopes that number could be as high as 150 million. So far, 32 million doses have been administered since the first vaccine was approved on Dec. 11.

Zients said the severe weather across much of the northeastern United States hasn't slowed down the federal government's shipments of the vaccine though some states have had to close administration sites.