ALEXANDRIA, Va. — National Community Pharmacists Association CEO B. Douglas Hoey has been invited by the Department of Health and Human Services to serve alongside administration officials and industry executives as part of Operation Warp Speed, the unprecedented race to develop, approve, produce, and distribute hundreds of millions of doses of vaccines for COVID-19.
“Developing a vaccine in record time is the first hurdle. Then we need a way to distribute hundreds of millions of doses in record time. Community pharmacies are crucial to the administration of the millions of doses that will be needed to overcome the debilitating effect of the virus, and I’m glad to have the opportunity to represent community pharmacy as part of the effort,” said Hoey.
President Donald J. Trump announced Operation Warp Speed in June of this year. The project is a government-wide effort including HHS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Defense. They are working with pharmaceutical companies to produce 300 million doses of vaccine in just a few months, a blink of an eye compared to the years-long process it normally takes to bring new drugs market.
“COVID-19 is a public health emergency and an economic emergency,” said Hoey. “A vaccine is imperative to stop the spread, save lives, and get the economy back on its feet.”
NCPA represents more than 21,000 community pharmacies, which are independently owned and operated pharmacies that are the only accessible health care providers for millions of Americans. That, said Hoey, is one reason why community pharmacies must be part of the national strategy.
“Community pharmacies are located where the people are, including rural and medically underserved areas,” said Hoey. “Three quarters of them already provide immunizations, and the overwhelming majority plan to administer COVID-19 vaccines when they come to market.”
Hoey cited a new survey released last week by NCPA showing that community pharmacists are perfectly positioned to be part of the national vaccine project. Their mobility is one key advantage. In fact, 70 percent serve patients in locations outside of their brick-and-mortar pharmacies. They immunize patients in long-term care facilities, local businesses, community centers, schools, prisons, places of worship, and other locations.
“Community pharmacists are willing to go wherever they can to help the most people,” he said. “Most serve communities with fewer than 50,000 residents, and nearly 40 percent serve communities with fewer than 10,000 residents. The only way to efficiently and effectively reach some of these communities is through the community pharmacy.”