COVID-19 ISO Insights

U.S. Pharmacies Scramble For COVID-19 Vaccinators

January 11, 2021

By: Christopher Sirota, CPCU

Various pharmacies throughout the U.S. are planning to offer COVID-19 vaccines but will there be enough certified professionals to administer the vaccine? Its seems the answer would likely be yes, at least for nationwide chains.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that large and small pharmacies across the country are trying to staff up to meet expected needs, despite some having previously let staff go during the earlier part of the pandemic.

The pool of professionals potentially available is reportedly actually quite large because over the last few years the market has been shrinking: the top three drugstore chains combined have 1,000 fewer stores than five years ago, and grocery pharmacies showed a drop of over 300 stores from 2016 to 2017.

That said, The Journal notes that some chains have been trying to also recruit retired pharmacists to return for short term employment which, however, may not be attractive enough for some.

Most pharmacies are reportedly also seeking technicians since the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced in October 2020 that technicians would be permitted to administer vaccinations in accordance with state requirements. The Journal further explains how technicians can assist during the vaccination rollout, and some challenges pharmacies may face:

  • "Beyond giving shots, technicians review vaccine history, handle consent forms and schedule appointments for two-dose vaccines, companies say. They also can help with spacing out patients and encouraging distancing in their stores."
  • "Chains say that it is tough to keep track of varying state rules that determine which jobs pharmacy technicians can do and the qualifications they need."
  • "[One pharmacy chain is] encouraging technicians to get certified to administer vaccinations by offering a one-time bonus […] Immunization certification includes various credentials such as CPR training."
  • "Pharmacists require a doctoral or professional degree. Pharmacy technician jobs require a high-school diploma or equivalent. Employers may require additional training or education."
  • "Median annual pay for a pharmacist was $128,090 in 2019; pharmacy technicians made $33,950 a year, according to the Labor Department."

Although the pool of professionals may be large, competition seems to be a concern for some smaller chains. One chain reportedly noted that some of their technicians have been lured away by signing bonuses from competitors.

Per The Journal, the list below provides some order of magnitude of the staff being hire in the near future.

Company Chart

Vaccine distribution and administration status

In November 2020, the U.S. government announced partnerships with pharmacies to provide the COVID-19 vaccine, and according to a related New York Times article, as of December 31, 2020, about 40,000 pharmacy locations have enrolled.

To see the latest status of U.S. COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution and Administration, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s tracking webpage here. Per the CDC's tracker, as of December 30, 2020, 2,794,588 people have received a first dose, and 12,409,050 have been distributed nationwide.

The CDC's vaccination home page is available here.