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By Mrinalika Roy and Amruta Khandekar
(Reuters) -Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc said on Thursday it expects to administer fewer COVID-19 vaccines in the fourth quarter after inoculations peaked in the previous quarter, sending its shares down nearly 7%.
Walgreens had been relying on gains from administering COVID-19 vaccines to tide over losses from low prescription volumes and a weak flu season that has hampered over-the-counter sales of health and wellness products in recent quarters.
The Deerfield, Illinois-based company, among the largest U.S. pharmacies, administered 17 million vaccines in the third quarter, helping it beat analysts' sales estimates. Overall, 25 million shots have been given to Americans through Walgreens, 7.6% of all U.S. vaccinations.
The company now expects to administer 28 million vaccinations in 2021, with around seven million in the fourth quarter compared to 17 million in the third quarter.
The company had earlier planned to administer 26 million to 34 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in 2021.
"This quarter was peak quarter for (COVID-19) vaccinations," Chief executive Officer James Kehoe said, adding that a slowdown in vaccination rate was also due to U.S. President Joe Biden's push to have 70% of adults receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by July 4.
The company said it anticipates a slower growth in earnings per share in the fourth quarter compared to the previous quarter.
Same-store prescriptions filled at Walgreens' pharmacies rose 9.8% in the quarter, including a 6% boost from COVID-19 vaccines.
The company raised its 2021 adjusted earnings per share growth forecast from mid-to-high single digit to around 10%.
Revenue rose 12.1% to $34.0 billion in the quarter, ahead of estimates of $33.8 billion.
Shares of rival drugstore chains Rite Aid Corp and CVS Health Corp were also down marginally.
(Reporting by Mrinalika Roy and Amruta Khandekar in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi)