DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. (WBA) announced last month that it would donate $100,000 to the CDC Foundation toward its Zika virus education and prevention campaigns.
The company also said it would dedicate space inside its 120 drug stores in Puerto Rico where customers could learn about Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for slowing the spread of the virus, which is transmitted to humans primarily through encounters with infected mosquitoes but can also be spread by a man to his sexual partners. The virus has been linked with severe birth defects.
The CDC is stepping up efforts to protect thousands of pregnant women at risk in Puerto Rico, the area of the United States most affected by the Zika virus.
To make Zika virus prevention products easily available and more affordable, Walgreens has lowered the price on CDC-recommended items in its Puerto Rico stores, including insect repellent with DEET, condoms and thermometers to monitor for fever. The CDC recommends women, especially those who are pregnant or may become pregnant, and men who have traveled to or lived in an area with Zika virus, abstain from sex or use condoms during sex.
“As a pharmacy that champions everyone’s right to be happy and healthy, we are well positioned to address concerns about how anyone can protect themselves and their families from Zika, while also providing many CDC-recommended prevention products,” commented Richard Ashworth, president of pharmacy and retail operations for Walgreens. “We’re proud to work closely with the CDC and the CDC Foundation to expand their efforts to prevent the spread of this disease.”
The CDC has advocated for urgent action in Puerto Rico before mosquitoes reach their peak with the start of the rainy season in April. Preventive efforts are made more daunting by the island’s poverty. Many Puerto Ricans lack such basic preventive measures as window screens and insect repellent.
“It is gratifying to see that allies are continuously forming in education and prevention, as in the case of the CDC, the Puerto Rico Department of Health and Walgreens, who are collaborating to provide educational material about and access to Zika prevention products in Walgreens stores throughout Puerto Rico,” remarked Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner.
No vaccine exists to prevent or treat Zika virus, but more than a dozen drug companies, including Sanofi SA, Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. and NewLink Genetics Corp., are working on Zika vaccines, according to the World Health Organization.