More vaccine shots will be given to Americans beginning Friday with the start of a federal program that delivers doses directly to drugstores and grocery store pharmacies.
The program will start small, with one million vaccine doses distributed to about 6,500 retail pharmacies. Over time, it will expand to as many as 40,000 drugstores and groceries.
While some states in recent weeks have begun using a limited number of retail pharmacies to administer doses, the delivery of vaccines directly from the federal government to pharmacies marks a new chapter in the U.S. vaccination campaign.
On Friday, Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid, among other retailers, will start administering vaccines to eligible people based on state guidelines at limited locations around the country. Walgreens will have vaccines available in 22 states and Puerto Rico; Rite Aid will receive direct federal allocations initially in five states as well as Philadelphia and New York City; and CVS will offer vaccines in 18 states and Puerto Rico.
Those eligible to receive the doses can check pharmacy websites for availability, and many of the first appointment slots are already filled.
The federal program, which is designed not to cut into the doses allocated to states, begins a day after President Biden said his administration had secured enough vaccine doses to inoculate every American adult. (That news came with a plea for patience: Mr. Biden said logistical hurdles would probably mean that many Americans will still not have been vaccinated by the end of the summer.)
Mr. Biden on Thursday lamented the “gigantic” logistical challenge his administration faces. “It’s one thing to have the vaccine, it’s another thing to have vaccinators,” he said during an appearance at the National Institutes of Health.
He also expressed open frustration with the previous administration.
“While scientists did their job in discovering vaccines in record time, my predecessor — I’ll be very blunt about it — did not do his job in getting ready for the massive challenge of vaccinating hundreds of millions,” Mr. Biden said.
Health officials in the Trump administration have pushed back at those suggestions, pointing to hundreds of briefings that officials at the Department of Health and Human Services offered the incoming health team, including on vaccine allocation and distribution.
A deal for 200 million additional vaccine doses announced on Thursday helps fulfill a promise that Mr. Biden made in January to ramp up supply to cover more of the population. He said then that the administration was closing in on a deal with two manufacturers, Pfizer and Moderna, as part of his larger pledge that about 300 million Americans could receive a vaccine dose by the end of the summer or the beginning of the fall.
On Thursday, he said his administration had “now purchased enough vaccine to vaccinate all Americans.”