CDC launches portal to help public find COVID-19 vaccinations

Coronavirus

The bid to inoculate the country against a virus that has killed nearly 507,000 Americans is picking up, starting with helping the public better find a nearby vaccination site with available doses. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is throwing its resources behind a centralized online portal to help people looking to be immunized against COVID-19 —a difficult task for many Americans as demand is so far outpacing supply.

Run by Boston Children’s Hospital, VaccineFinder has up until now been used in helping distribute established vaccines for conditions like the flu. On Wednesday the website broadened to include more than 20,000 locations in several states offering coronavirus vaccinations, with plans to go nationwide in the weeks ahead.

That said, the VaccineFinder site won’t allow you to book an appointment. Rather, it takes users to other sites where they can attempt to schedule an appointment.

In addition to the CDC-backed portal, major pharmacy chains around the country are scheduling far more vaccinations starting this week. CVS Health on Wednesday began booking appointments to offer COVID-19 vaccinations in a total of 17 states, with about 570,000 doses available to be injected into arms starting Thursday, according to the pharmacy chain.

The drugstore giant said it was expanding pharmacy locations offering vaccinations to eligible populations to include Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania through a federal program run by the CDC.

CVS starting offering vaccinations earlier this month at pharmacies in 11 states: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

The White House on February 17 said that it was doubling the amount of doses being delivered to retail pharmacies across the U.S., broadening the shipments from the 1 million doses sent to 6,500 pharmacies the prior week. It said 2 million doses a week would be shipped to outlets going forward and eventually will include 40,000 stores nationwide.

CVS is “making significant progress in reaching vulnerable communities, which will continue to be an essential part of our vaccination effort,” Karen S. Lynch, president and chief executive of CVS Health, said Wednesday in a news release.

CVS, which operates nearly 10,000 pharmacies nationwide, said it has the capacity to administer 20 million to 25 million shots per month. Those looking to book an appointment can do so through CVS.com or through the company’s pharmacy app. Those without online access can call customer service at (800) 746-7287.

Walgreens and others speeding up shots

The announcement by CVS follows a similar one from Walgreens, which last week said that starting February 25, or Thursday, it would begin distributing its weekly allocation of more than 480,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses. 

Walgreens listed the following states and jurisdictions where the vaccine would be available: Arizona, Alaska, California, Chicago, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, New York City, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Walgreens advised eligible individuals to book appointments by visiting its site or through their state health department. The company runs more than 9,000 pharmacies across the country. 

The federal government earlier this month began sending supplies of COVID-19 vaccines to 21 national drugstore chains and to independent pharmacies in a move to accelerate distribution. Pharmacies and retailers are also partnering with states to help speed the immunization effort, with the public urged to get in line by making an appointment online or the phone. 

Where the federal doses go varies by state. In Alabama, for example, pharmacies inside Walmart stores will get federal shipments of the vaccine, while in California, CVS and Rite Aid are expected to receive doses. Shipments of the vaccine are going to Hy-Vee and CPESN USA locations in Iowa, and to Albertsons, Costco and Health Mart pharmacies in Washington state. Look up your state here.

Kroger, Walmart and Rite Aid

Other major chains involved in the effort include Kroger, the nation’s largest grocery chain. It recently unveiled a scheduling tool that it said can manage 250,000 requests daily. Kroger Health is now receiving and administering vaccines at 1,300 of its 2,200 pharmacies and 220 clinics in 35 states. “If all pharmacy locations begin to receive doses of the vaccine, Kroger Health could administer an average of nearly 500,000 vaccinations per week,” it stated in a news release.

Kroger pharmacies have a limited supply of the vaccine and are offering it now at some locations in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin, according to an update from the company. Consumers can check appointment availability here.

More than 1,000 Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies in 22 states are getting federal vaccine allocations. That includes Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. 

The retail giant is also giving vaccinations using state allocation in 11 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. (You can see if a Walmart pharmacy near you is administering the COVID-19 vaccine here and confirm eligibility and schedule an appointment here.)

“Ninety percent of the country lives within 10 miles of a Walmart. We’re at the heart of many rural and underserved communities, and we are committed to providing access to vaccines as groups become eligible,” Dr. Cheryl Pegus, Walmart’s executive vice president, Health & Wellness, said in a news release

Rite Aid is receiving federal doses at some of its pharmacies in five states and two municipal jurisdictions: California, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and its largest city, Philadelphia, and New York City, a spokesperson said in an email to CBS MoneyWatch. “These allocations will supplement existing and ongoing state and local allocations,” he added. 

The Rite Aid chain, which operates 2,450 stores in 18 states, has limited information on registering for a vaccination here

Publix, Costco and Mejer

Publix is administering the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to eligible individuals at 593 Publix pharmacies in 41 Florida counties, using doses provided by the state and federal government. Publix pharmacies have also given the vaccine to people in Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia. The company’s online reservation system can be found here.

Costco is offering a limited number of COVID-19 vaccines, typically Moderna, at some locations in New York City, Oregon, Puerto Rico and Washington, the warehouse club said in an update on its website. 

Albertsons Companies, which operates more than 1,700 pharmacies in its grocery stores in 34 states, is also receiving direct federal allocations of vaccine. Consumers can check out availability at the food and drug retailer’s numerous individual banners: ACMEAlbertsonsCarrsHaggenJewel-OscoPavilionRandallsSafewayShaw’sStar MarketTom ThumbUnited Supermarkets and Vons.

At Albertsons-owned Lucky Pharmacy in Salt Lake City, Utah, the COVID-19 vaccine is billed as “coming soon.”

Hy-Vee runs 275 stores in eight Midwestern states and is offering federal doses of the vaccine at some of its in-store pharmacies in Iowa and South Dakota. Appointments can be made here.

Meijer plans to administer up to 25,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses starting the week of February 8 at clinics in its stores throughout Michigan. Residents of the state who are 65 and older can pre-register through the company’s website. The retailer operates 256 supercenters and grocery stores in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Michigan.

Ahold Delhaize and Southwestern Grocers

H-E-B, which runs more than 400 stores in Texas and Mexico, is offering the vaccine at some pharmacies in Texas. Check here for new appointment availability.

Ahold Delhaize companies also are offering the vaccine. That includes Stop & Shop, which runs 250 pharmacies in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey. Hannaford is now scheduling appointments in two of the five states in which it operates, New York and Massachusetts, and its Giant Food brand is offering scheduling links to customers in Washington, D.C., Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. Go to https://giantfood.com/pages/covid-info for details. 

Southeastern Grocers began giving 8,100 free Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses starting February 11 to eligible customers in some Winn-DixieFresco y Más and Harveys Supermarket locations throughout Florida. 

Some of Topco Associates’ multiple brands are also getting federal shipments of vaccines. Acme Fresh Market is offering vaccination appointments at its pharmacies in Ohio, although at last check were fully booked. Check for updates here. 

Big Y is offering the vaccine at pharmacies in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Wegmans is offering shots at some pharmacies in and Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania.

Giant Eagle, Food City and Price Chopper

Topco-brand Giant Eagle is in line to offer the vaccine at pharmacies in Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, while Brookshire Grocery has started an online waiting list in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. Food City is ready to offer the vaccine, but presently only has it at pharmacies in Virginia. Price Chopper/Market 32 is offering the vaccine at some pharmacies in Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania — click here to see if you’re eligible. 

Health Mart — a chain of 5,000 independent pharmacies across the U.S. — is also due federal vaccine shipments.  Pennsylvania’s Beaver Health Mart paused its online registration, saying it would resume taking requests once its supply is replenished. Missouri residents can try registering on the Parkland Health Mart Pharmacy site here

Health Mart, CPESN USA and Good Neighbor

Wayne Drug, a Health Mart pharmacy in Oswego, New York, took to social media to keep customers posted. 

Community Pharmacy Enhanced Service Network, or CPESN USA, is participating in the federal program and offering vaccines at locations in Florida and Iowa

AmerisourceBergen said it was placing orders with the CDC on behalf of its Good Neighbor Pharmacy and Elevate Provider Network — a cooperative of 4,500 independently owned pharmacies — in Kentucky, Kansas, Nebraska, Texas and Guam. 

In California’s San Joaquin County, the Save Mart Company’s Lucky Pharmacy is offering appointments here.

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