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Coronavirus update: Pharmacies to get limited vaccine supply; AstraZeneca shows increased efficacy

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Anjalee Khemlani
·Senior Reporter
·3 min read
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Watch: We need to get vaccines ‘in arms now to save lives’

The White House COVID-19 Response Team revealed plans to allow a limited number of doses to be distributed through retail pharmacies, raising hopes that more qualified individuals can gain access to protection against the coronavirus.

Response Team leader Jeff Zients said the federal government is increasing weekly distribution to 10.5 million doses across 64 jurisdictions, plus limited additional doses to 6,500 pharmacy sites.

Millions of Americans turn to their local pharmacies for medications and flu shots already, and most Americans live within 5 miles of a retail pharmacy, Zients said during a press briefing Tuesday.

The plan and agreements with retail pharmacy and grocery chains was originally crafted during President Donald Trump’s term. The current plan, however, will focus on equity, Zients noted.

The retail sites were chosen by their ability to “serve socially vulnerable communities” and Americans most at risk of contracting the virus.

Starting February 11, the initial distribution total will be 1 million.

“Eventually, as we are able to increase supply, up to 40,000 (sites) nationwide could provide COVID-19 vaccinations” ranging from local pharmacies to grocery stores, Zients said.

Two of the largest pharmacy chains, CVS (CVS) and Walgreens (WBA) announced their plans to roll out vaccines. The chains have already been involved in administering the vaccines in long term care facilities.

CVS said in a statement it would provide nearly 249,000 doses to 333 sites in 11 states. CVS is also working with Indiana and Ohio to deliver their allotments of vaccines through in-store services.

There have been over 26 million cases in the U.S. (Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance)
There have been over 26 million cases in the U.S. (Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

Vaccine efficacy

Meanwhile, other global vaccine providers’ efficacy rates were released Tuesday. Russia’s vaccine, Sputnik V, was found to be 92% effective, according to reports.

Russia had already begun to administer the vaccine prior to the completion of Phase 3 trials in August, including to President Vladmir Putin’s own daughter.

In the U.K., Oxford University and AstraZeneca (AZN) revealed new insight into vaccine efficacy that could help in the debate of extending vaccine supplies for second doses.

The study showed the vaccine had “sustained protection of 76% during the 3-month interval until the second dose,” according to a statement Tuesday.

The U.K. has delayed second doses in favor of administering as many first doses as possible, but in the U.S., the ongoing crunch for supplies and a rocky rollout has left states and vaccination sites clinging to reserves for fear of running out.

Public health policy expert and Yale professor Dr. Howard Forman told Yahoo Finance Tuesday that first doses should go out the door to help ensure as many people are protected as possible — especially with the federal government’s commitment to forecasting supplies.

“I’m in favor of getting as many shots in arms as feasibly as you can as quickly as you can,” Forman said.

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