Drug chains pledge support for Biden’s COVID-19 fight

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President Joe Biden

President Joe Biden

WASHINGTON — During his inaugural address and throughout his campaign, President Joe Biden spoke of the need to unify the nation and how doing so would require all Americans pulling in the same direction. Less than 24 hours after he took office the 46th president’s call had already been embraced by one major group, retail pharmacy, which has pledged to work with not only the Biden administration but also Congress in addressing the plethora of challenges facing the country, from COVID-19 to the crippled economy left in its wake.

Retailers are keenly aware of the pressing need to defeat the pandemic, especially with infections increasing and new mutations of the virus emerging. On his first day in office, Biden began taking action in the fight against the coronavirus, which has taken the lives of more than 400,000 Americans not even a year in, by signing executive orders mandating masks on federal property and interstate travel.

The president has also exercised his executive authority in utilizing the Defense Production Act (DPA), which mandates private companies direct their resources to meet the needs of national defense and security — in the case of COVID, prioritizing production of vaccines, therapeutics, PPE and other medical equipment.

Biden has also made good on other campaign proposals by creating a National Pandemic Testing Board to improve U.S. coronavirus testing capacity and a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to ensure an “equitable” pandemic response and recovery as well as an executive order to boost the country’s “collection, production, sharing and analysis of data about the virus.”

“President Biden’s plan demonstrates action in critical areas that are essential for getting safe and effective vaccines to Americans’ arms, efficiently and equitably,” said National Association of Chain Drug Stores president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson. “Among its proactive steps, NACDS appreciates that the administration will activate the Federal Pharmacy Partnership Program. NACDS also appreciates the focus on ensuring a data-driven response to COVID-19 and to future public health threats — a vision on which NACDS members can add considerable value.”

Part of Biden’s $20 billion national vaccination program is his target of administering 100 million doses of the vaccine during the first 100 days of his presidency, which is on pace with some 1 million doses a day being administered across the country currently.

To quicken the pace of getting the country vaccinated, Biden has promised to work with federal and state officials in establishing community vaccination centers across the U.S., including the deployment of mobile units to reach into rural areas where pharmacies and other medical facilities are not easily accessible or even located at all.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will be employed in this mammoth process, and the president has mandated that FEMA offer full reimbursement to states for the cost of National Guard personnel and emergency supplies such as PPE for schools. Independent and chain pharmacies will be central in completing this task, as Biden plans to utilize these outlets for administering shots. The president has also promised to make vaccine available free of charge to all members of the public, without cost sharing, regardless of immigration status.

Biden’s executive actions on the pandemic have been embraced so far by many retailers, according to Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) president Brian Dodge.

“Leading retailers support President Biden’s executive order to require Americans to wear masks in federal workspaces, buildings and courthouses,” Dodge commented. “The president’s order matches the investments and policies retailers have implemented throughout this pandemic to keep our employees and customers safe. Until the vaccination campaign has immunized enough Americans to stop the spread of COVID-19, commonsense tactics that promote good hygiene, responsible distancing and wearing masks are still the best way to keep communities safe.”

Karen Lynch, president and CEO of CVS Health, noted the importance of pharmacies in battling the pandemic and pointed to her company’s more than 90,000 trained health care professionals standing by “with the capacity to administer approximately 1 million shots per day through our 10,000 CVS Pharmacy locations across the country once the federal program is fully activated.”

Walgreens president John Standley agreed with the importance of masks and social distancing until the country has been vaccinated and enough time has gone by for those vaccines to knock out the virus for good.

NACDS’ Anderson characterized the administration’s establishment of a health equity task force focused on enhancing vaccine confidence as “a crucial step.”

He said, “Pharmacies, pharmacists and pharmacy teams are local and highly trusted — and can help to engage in the conversations that are essential to vaccine confidence, across races and ethnicities, and in rural and urban settings.”

“By virtue of their extensive experience collaborating with public health, pharmacies also are key to standing up mass clinics and mobile clinics,” added Anderson.


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