WASHINGTON — Relief and excitement are settling in as the Biden administration is set to distribute more COVID-19 vaccines to retail pharmacies across the country next week, allowing for another outlet to get vaccinated amid a slow rollout by states.
The effort to expand the ability to vaccinate more people who are eligible comes at a time when the use of independent pharmacies is proving to be critical in smaller communities where they are the only form of help. The rural state of West Virginia has been praised for leading the country in vaccination rates.
The White House said it would increase access to vaccines across the country by directly shipping 1 million doses to 6,500 pharmacy stores starting on February 11.
Certain independent pharmacies were on the list, including ones associated with Good Neighbor Pharmacy, AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation and Health Mart Pharmacies.
An AmerisourceBergen spokesperson told WUSA9 the company is acting more of a "network administrator" to help allocate 10,000 doses to more than 100 stores in Texas, Nebraska, Kentucky, Kansas and Guam.
Among the 21 pharmacies partnered with the program are CVS, Walgreens, Publix and Costco. To register for a vaccine, go to the respective pharmacy's website beginning next week.
In Virginia, there will be 36 stores receiving roughly 26,000 doses of the vaccine.
In Maryland, about 11,000 doses will go toward 18 CVS pharmacy locations.
None of the pharmacies in D.C. will be receiving the vaccines in the first phase of the program.
Walgreens will be obtaining the vaccines for locations across 15 states including Maryland, but Virginia and D.C. were not included.
According to the CDC website, D.C. is "pending" in the first phase of the federal rollout.
It might be a tough pill to swallow for pharmacists such as Dupont Circle Pharmacy CEO Cyprian Sabah, whose pharmacy was certified by the federal government to provide vaccines once they become available. However, he is hopeful that his pharmacy will be next sooner than later.
Sabah said a pharmacy like his is tapped into communities on a personal level. He has been receiving many calls from his customers eager to receive the vaccine only through his pharmacy.
"We provide a personal touch. You know customers by their names. Their families are your families," Sabah told WUSA9. "I have a long list of my clients and others who want to get the vaccine but since we don't have it in stock, we're unable to."
"It makes me very happy and it makes me very proud that at long last, my clients will also be receiving the vaccinations," he said.
Both Safeway and Giant have already been distributing vaccines in the District.