With COVID-19 cases rising in many states, and flu season on its way, CVS says it’s planning to add 15,000 pharmacy workers this winter. Most will be technicians who will help with COVID-19 testing, flu shots and maybe administering an eventual COVID-19 vaccine. Getting hundreds of millions of vaccine doses to the public would be an unprecedented challenge, and local drug stores could play an important role.
Thousands of retail clinics have opened inside pharmacies and grocery stores over the last couple decades. Dr. Ateev Mehrotra, a professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, said this setting has some big advantages. “They’ve got good hours, you don’t have to make an appointment, parking is easy. While you’re waiting, you can do some extra shopping,” he said.
He’s found these clinics often serve patients who might not otherwise go to traditional doctor’s offices, helping to boost vaccination rates.
Drug makers are preparing a record number of flu shots this year. And demand for an eventual COVID-19 vaccine could put unprecedented strain on health care systems. That’s where retail clinics could be a big help, said Robert Field, a professor of health management at Drexel University.
“The idea is to do low-end services that are easy, that don’t involve a lot of technology and a lot of highly skilled staff,” he said.
Pharmacy technician positions, like the ones CVS is hiring for, require a high school diploma, a short certification program and clearance from the government to give vaccines. The jobs pay about $15 an hour.
A big vaccine surge could drive traffic to pharmacy storefronts, which have seen sales slow during the pandemic, said Matthew Hamory, a retail consultant with AlixPartners.
“You might go in, get a flu shot, pick up some health care, beauty products, pick up a prescription, use all parts of the store,” he said.
Though if pharmacies are hoping vaccines will be a shot in the arm, the benefit could be limited, as many retail clinics are holding immunizations outside to comply with social distancing measures.