More than 5,000 Walmart and Sam's Club pharmacies nationwide will be ready to administer COVID-19 vaccines once the Food and Drug Administration greenlights Pfizer’s candidate for distribution, Walmart's chief medical officer announced Thursday.
The retailer's announcement came just after a U.S. government advisory panel endorsed widespread use of Pfizer’s candidate Thursday evening.
Shots could begin within the next few days depending on how quickly the FDA signs off, which could be as soon as Friday.
The federal government will allocate the vaccine to states, which will determine who should receive the initial batch. Most states plan to give front-line health care workers and high-risk patients priority.
"At this point, it is really a matter of working out some final details," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told FOX Business' "Mornings with Maria" on Friday. "Within the next couple of days, it ought to come out and we'll start having Pfizer ship that vaccine to where governors have told us."
Walmart does not have any say in who can receive the vaccine but is "ready to support states once they do," Walmart Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tom Van Gilder said.
In November, the company reached an agreement with federal health officials to distribute free vaccines to the public once they become available. Walmart is among a handful of stores and pharmacies that have joined the distribution partnership, including Costco, Albertsons, Publix, CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid.
All Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies are set to receive the vaccine doses. Walmart says 90% of the American population lives within 10 miles of a Walmart.
"We will play an important part in making sure those who want a vaccine can get one when they are eligible based on their state’s prioritization, especially those in hard to reach parts of the country that have recently been hit hard by the epidemic," Van Gilder said.
To prepare, the company is making sure it has freezers in all of its locations as well as dry ice to handle any requirements for storing the vaccine
However, the company says it will be ready to support vaccinations where the individual states determine help is needed, whether that is within its pharmacies or long-term care facilities.
Walmart is also educating employees about the vaccine to prepare them for when they become eligible.