Biden to expand vaccine rollout with local pharmacies, signs new executive orders

This week’s White House press briefings tackle the COVID-19 vaccine and immigration reform.

President Joe Biden’s administration plans to begin delivering coronavirus vaccines to local pharmacies, according to a White House press briefing on Feb. 2. This action comes as the first step in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 vaccines, setting the stage in hopes of providing shots to over 40,000 nationwide pharmacies.

Biden’s move comes in conjunction with the goal of administering one million coronavirus shots in the first one hundred days of the administration, and just after the administration increased state allocation to ten and a half million a week, a 22% increase from January 20.

Targeting the “90 percent of Americans [that] live within five miles of a pharmacy,” according to the briefing, the administration will work with 21 different pharmacy companies to provide shots over the course of this plan. Pharmacies involved in this rollout will include Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, and Kroger among others.

“This will provide more sites for people to get vaccinated in their communities and is an important component to delivering vaccines equitably,” Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary, said.

Biden’s plan will tap into a long-standing network of local health providers via pharmacies, “leveraging the infrastructure that already exists within the pharmacies to roll out the coronavirus vaccine,” said Dr. Rita Burke, an assistant professor of clinical preventive medicine at the USC Keck School of Medicine.

“It will certainly make it easier for people to access the vaccine. I think that’s really where we’ve seen some of the biggest challenges,” Burke said. “I think the only limiting factor is going to be the supply of the vaccine.”

Jeffrey Zients, White House COVID response coordinator, announced the purchase of an additional 200 million vaccines and new community vaccination centers to be developed alongside the pharmacy expansion. Zients iterated that these community sites will look different in all states, some in large stadiums and others in local gymnasiums.

Alongside the development of new vaccination sites, the government will be ramping up financial support for states, estimated to total $3-5 billion dollars in retroactive coverage for services covered under FEMA. However, Biden is asking for $350 billion to further support the states in fighting the pandemic as part of his $1.9 trillion proposed congressional aid package.

“We need Congress to quickly pass the American Rescue Plan to provide the funding we need to continue to scale up our vaccination program,” Zients said. “This will not be easy. Vaccinating everyone in America is one of the greatest operational challenges we’ve ever faced.”

Psaki announced that Biden is meeting with Democratic Senators to work to pass the American Rescue Plan, characterizing the conversation as “productive.” This meeting comes just two days after Biden met with congressional Republicans on this same package.

Other large announcements from the White House this week include Biden signing three executive orders, further advancing the administration’s focus on immigration reform. These actions target the reunification of families at the border, a reversal of a major Trump-era domestic policy, as well as addressing southern border migration and renewing trust in the legal immigration system.