Rite Aid CEO said retailers will get tapped sooner than expected to help speed vaccine rollout

Rite Aid is one of at least 19 pharmacies and grocers partnering with HHS to administer COVID-19 vaccine doses at their stores. Rite Aid expects to be part of the second distribution phase, when the doses become available to the wider public, said Rite Aid CEO Heyward Donigan on Monday during the virtual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference.

Rite Aid is one of at least 19 pharmacies and grocers partnering with HHS to administer COVID-19 vaccine doses at their stores. Rite Aid expects to be part of the second distribution phase, when the doses become available to the wider public, said Rite Aid CEO Heyward Donigan on Monday during the virtual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. She said, "I believe this is going to be ramped up more expeditiously and faster than that." The rollout so far has faltered, with those prioritized to receive the vaccine varying widely from state to state and even among counties. At some vaccine sites in New York, eligible recipients have declined the immunizations or failed to show up at their appointments, causing some doses to be discarded. Donigan said Rite Aid has received more than 5,000 coronavirus vaccine doses so far. Noting some of the challenges with vaccination, she observed, "If you open up a bottle and you only get one person who wants a dose that day, you've got to figure out what to do with the rest of the vial. It is extremely complicated to figure out how to find the right people, the most vulnerable, in that moment, in that day without having things go to waste." The vaccinations could provide pharmacies with a financial boost and allow them to highlight changes they have made at their stores. Rite Aid has not yet estimated the vaccine's financial effect, but COO Jim Peters says it will be taken into account into the company's forecast for the next fiscal year.