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Walgreens, CVS hiring thousands of workers to help with vaccine distribution

Officials repeatedly stressed that first recipients of vaccine would be health care workers, nursing home residents

Walgreens and CVS are hiring health care workers to help administer COVID-19 vaccines to the public once a candidate is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, which officials say could be in a matter of days.

Walgreens has approximately 25,000 open positions to fill immediately, Rina Shah, the company's group vice president of pharmacy operations, confirmed to FOX Business.

CVS NEEDS TO HIRE THOUSANDS TO ROLL OUT VACCINE DISTRIBUTION – HERE ARE THE JOBS AVAILABLE

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
CVS CVS HEALTH CORP. 76.04 +0.23 +0.30%
WBA WALGREENS BOOTS ALLIANCE, INC. 53.30 -0.42 -0.78%

Roughly 8,000 to 9,000 of the roles are dedicated to pharmacy team members supporting COVID-19 testing and vaccine administration, Shah said.

CVS is looking to hire tens of thousands of health care workers in order to be ready for the surge in patients seeking a vaccination. The company even notified its customers in an email that it was "urgently hiring thousands of qualified pharmacists, nurses and pharmacy technicians" and encouraged customers to forward the email on to any "qualified applicants."

Walgreens pharmacy in Miami, Florida on May 28, 2020. (Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Both companies are working quickly to be prepared for when the Food and Drug Administration issues a decision, which is likely to come in the next few days now that Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine was confirmed to be strongly protective against the virus.

On Thursday, the FDA will convene what’s essentially a science court that will debate -- in public and live-streamed -- just how strong the data backing the shots really is. A panel of independent scientists will pick apart the FDA’s first-pass review before recommending whether the vaccine appears safe and effective enough for millions of Americans. The FDA, which typically follows the committee’s advice, is expected to issue a decision in the days following the review.

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If given the green light, federal health officials will "authorize shipment within 24 hours," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said during an interview with CNN on Wednesday.

The vaccines would be directly shipped by FedEx and UPS to "wherever the governors have told us they want it to go," Azar said, adding that some governors "are leveraging the system we set up, CVS, Walgreens."

In October, the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense partnered with both pharmacy companies to provide and administer COVID-19 vaccines to residents of long-term care facilities across the nation.

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Officials have repeatedly stressed that the first recipients of the vaccine would be health care workers and nursing home residents, according to plans laid out by each state.

Eventually, however, the goal is to make getting a COVID-19 vaccine similar to getting a flu shot. In order to accomplish this, health officials have reached an agreement with pharmacies across the U.S. to distribute free vaccines after they become available to the public.

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The list of pharmacies joining the distribution partnership includes retail chains like Rite Aid, supermarket drug stores like Albertsons and Publix, and big-box stores like Costco and Walmart.

“The vast majority of Americans live within five miles of a pharmacy,” Azar said, calling the agreement “a critical step toward making sure all Americans have access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines when they are available.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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