Vaccination Campaign to Be ‘Chaotic’ for Weeks, Rite Aid CEO Says

Rolling out Covid-19 vaccines nationally will be hectic as providers navigate a myriad of rules that vary across states and counties, Rite Aid Corp. Chief Executive Officer Heyward Donigan said Monday.

“One thing is for sure: It’s going to be pretty chaotic for the next few weeks as people try to maneuver through this,” Donigan said Monday at the virtual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference.

Rite Aid has already administered more than 5,000 Covid-19 shots, Donigan said, as it works with local leaders. Donigan anticipates pharmacies’ role will ramp up sooner than planned with states trying to provide vaccinations more quickly.

Rite Aid is one of the largest U.S. drugstore chains, with about 2,500 stores in 19 states.

Across the U.S., 8.02 million doses have been administered, or 36% of the shots that have been distributed, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker. Efforts to get shots into arms have been slowed down by a patchwork of rules dictating who can get vaccinated and when.

“It’s not even just the states,” Donigan said. “The counties are determining who gets how much and what the conditions are.”

These issues likely will be sorted in the coming weeks, Donigan said. Rite Aid has been in contact with the incoming Biden administration about the vaccination campaign, she said.

Vaccine Complexity

The campaign so far has proved more complex than coronavirus testing, Donigan said. Rite Aid partnered with the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct tests at some of its stores.

Adding to the complexity are the vaccines themselves. Vials filled with Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s formula boast five and sometimes six doses. Moderna Inc.’s includes enough to give 10 shots.

That means if a vial is opened to vaccinate one person, the pharmacist needs to find other eligible people to vaccinate before the vial expires within hours. This can create a logistical hurdle and an ethical dilemma.

“We would all agree that we don’t want doses going unused in this particular dynamic,” Donigan says, “But it is extremely complicated to figure out how to find the right people, the most vulnerable, in that moment, in that day, without having things go to waste.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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