- Meijer is preparing a large-scale plan to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to people across the six states where it operates, the grocer announced Monday.
- The grocer’s pharmacy team is developing procedures to deliver vaccinations to a high volume of people and follow up with those patients to make sure they receive a second dose if necessary. Meijer said it is looking to use physical spaces — similar to what it did for its flu shot clinics — for large-scale, COVID-19 vaccine clinics, in addition to offering the shot inside of its stores.
- Food retailers have emerged as key players in the nation’s effort to immunize people in the United States against COVID-19, with several grocery chains, including Meijer, signing up with the federal government to make their staff and facilities available to administer the shots.
Meijer is in a unique position to distribute COVID-19 inoculations as the nation’s effort to defeat the pandemic picks up steam. The retailer, which has 256 locations in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin, is known for its large stores, some of which exceed 200,000 square feet — several times the size of the typical U.S. grocery store.
Those extra-large spaces present Meijer with the ability to safely operate COVID-19 vaccination clinics indoors in dedicated store areas during the cold winter months.
Meijer is also laying the groundwork to inoculate people against the disease at locations separate from its stores, using the 98 flu-shot clinics it held in Michigan in October and November as a model. The retailer provided more than 3,000 flu vaccines at the mobile clinics, which were held at venues including universities, food pantries, churches, apartment communities and sports arena parking lots.
Pharmacies, including those within grocery stores, traditionally administer the annual influenza shots that public health experts recommend to guard against the seasonal respiratory ailment, making them natural choices for public health officials looking for efficient ways to rapidly distribute COVID-19 shots.
The “vast majority” of people in the United States live within 5 miles of a pharmacy, according to Alex Azar, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. That agency, along with the Department of Defense, is leading Operation Warp Speed, the government’s effort to develop, manufacture and distribute vaccines, medicines and tests to combat COVID-19. According to the Food Industry Association (FMI), supermarket pharmacies distribute 20% of the flu shots given out in the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has recommended that pharmacists be included in the first group of people who receive COVID-19 vaccines, drawing praise from FMI.
In addition, many retailers have trained people to associate vaccination with shopping trips by offering financial incentives to encourage their shoppers to get inoculated against the flu. Meijer, which offers credits in its prescription rewards program to customers who opt to get a flu shot at its pharmacies, said in September that it expected to administer 75% more flu shots this year than in the past amid what it attributed to “a higher awareness of the need to be protected.”
Like Meijer, other grocers are getting ready to administer the shots. Hy-Vee said earlier this month that it wants to hire 1,000 full- and part-time pharmacy technicians to assist in its effort to administer COVID-19 vaccines. Other grocers participating in the government’s coronavirus vaccine rollout include Kroger, Albertsons, H-E-B, Costco, Publix, Walmart and Winn-Dixie.