Dec. 10, 2020
By Dr. Tom Van Gilder, Chief Medical Officer, Walmart
As we all read about COVID-19 vaccine progress in the news, I wanted to share a few of the steps we’re taking at Walmart to be prepared once a vaccine is approved in the United States. We have been on quite a journey the last several months, from entering into agreements with the federal government to distribute the vaccine, to preparing our operations and clinical services, all to get ready to be one of the places our customers and associates can receive the vaccine. I know we are all ready to get back to normal and enjoy life beyond the epidemic, and these vaccines will help us do that.
Let me share a few things I know about the upcoming vaccines:
- There are multiple vaccine candidates, and they are showing real promise; the effectiveness is better than expected. That is tremendous progress and a good sign. The vaccines are showing impressive safety data as well. The Food and Drug Administration’s processes are designed to deliver a safe, effective vaccine; however, no vaccine provides complete coverage, and most vaccines have side effects. In trials so far, the vaccines have shown side effects of flu-like symptoms in about 10% to 15% of recipients, but there have been no reports of serious side effects.
- The federal government will allocate the vaccine to states, and states will determine who should receive the first doses of the vaccine and when. Walmart will not have any say in who can receive the vaccine, but we are ready to support states once they do.
- The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a division of CDC, recommends health care workers and residents and workers in long-term care facilities receive the first doses.
- The first vaccines to be approved are likely to require two doses and will be available in limited quantities. So, as most of us await the vaccine, we must remain vigilant: maintain social distancing, continue our enhanced hygiene practices, avoid large gatherings and wear face coverings when out in public.
- For the vaccines that require two doses, the doses need to be separated by 21 or 28 days, depending on which vaccine a person receives. So, it will be important to ensure people return for a second dose of the same vaccine at the right time, or the vaccine will not be effective.
What has Walmart been doing to prepare? Our pharmacists give millions of shots a year, and they are trained under strict, up-to-date guidelines to be able to administer vaccines. In addition, we are making the following preparations:
- Preparing our 5000+ Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies to receive the vaccine doses, including making sure we have freezers in all our pharmacies, as well as dry ice to handle any requirements for storing the vaccine
- Entering into agreements with states to be able to support vaccinations where needed, whether that is in our pharmacies or long-term care facilities where the states determine they need our help
- Putting in place processes to inform people of when to receive the first and second doses and to report successful vaccinations
- Educating our associates about the vaccine, so when they are determined to be eligible, they will understand and be ready to receive the vaccine if they choose
With 90% of the American population living within 10 miles of a Walmart, we will play an important part in making sure those who want a vaccine can get one when they are eligible based on their state’s prioritization, especially those in hard to reach parts of the country that have recently been hit hard by the epidemic. This year has shown us all how important our relationships are across the country and within our communities and how much our communities depend on our availability, service and support. Our stores have adapted, strengthening online and delivery options and providing our customers with more choices on how to manage their lives. We have been doing the same thing in our pharmacy operations, offering curbside and delivery options, and now, getting ready for the COVID-19 vaccine once it is approved. Walmart and Sam’s Club stand with our communities, and we will be ready to serve you, just as we always have.