The Kroger Co. and Wakefern Food Corp. announced this week that its stores and pharmacies were partnering with state and federal authorities on plans to administer COVID-19 vaccines.
Kroger Health, the healthcare division of the Cincinnati-based retailer, said it would provide the COVID-19 vaccine nationwide across its 2,200 pharmacies and 220 clinics, and was engaged in vaccination efforts for prioritized populations in several geographies, including Anchorage and Juneau, Alaska, where the company is to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to healthcare workers this week.
“Kroger Health is a COVID-19 response leader that has provided our patients, associates and other businesses with diagnostic testing tools and supporting resources since the onset of this public health crisis,” said Colleen Lindholz, Kroger Health’s president. “Kroger Health’s experienced healthcare providers remain committed to helping our patients and associates live healthier lives. The size and scale of our healthcare operation provides us with the unique ability to efficiently facilitate COVID-19 testing and immunize a large portion of the U.S. population, once the authorized vaccines become more widely available.”
Over the past few months, Kroger Health has worked closely with the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Defense, as well as pharmaceutical companies and other businesses, to prepare for vaccine authorization.
Now that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized two vaccines, Kroger Health said it would support a phased approach, focusing first on priority populations as defined by federal and state governments.
“As one of the most-accessible healthcare partners in the U.S., Kroger Health is prepared and ready to play an active role in helping distribute the vaccine in collaboration with public health officials and community partners,” said Marc Watkins, Kroger Health’s chief medical officer. “Our most urgent priority throughout this pandemic has been to protect and provide a safe environment for our associates and patients while meeting our societal obligation to provide open stores, e-commerce solutions and an efficiently operating supply chain so that our communities have access to fresh, affordable food, essentials and healthcare.
“We are strongly encouraging all customers and associates to receive the vaccine to curb the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, and we’ll do all we can to ensure they have access as soon as it’s available,” Watkins added.
Kroger Health said it was hiring nearly 1,000 healthcare personnel, including pharmacy technicians, to support operations and the administration of the vaccine.
Kroger Health has facilitated more than 250,000 COVID-19 tests since April, and in October, launched rapid antibody tests to help inform patients if they may have been previously infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, expanding the organization’s existing portfolio of in-clinic and at-home COVID-19 diagnostic tests. Kroger Health also continues to administer the seasonal flu vaccine.
Wakefern Joins HHS Partnership
Keasbey, N.J.-based Wakefern, the marketing and distribution arm of the ShopRite brand, said this week that it has joined the Pharmacy Partnership Strategy for COVID-19 Vaccination with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that will provide vaccinations at select ShopRite Pharmacy locations in the Northeast.
Previously announced retail participants in the partnership include food-and-drug retailers Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, Rite Aid, Kroger Co., Publix Super Markets, Costco Wholesale, Albertsons Cos., Hy-Vee, Meijer, H-E-B, Retail Business Services, (Ahold Delhaize USA banners Food Lion, Giant Food, Giant Co., Hannaford and Stop & Shop), and Winn-Dixie. Network administrator Topco Associates and its partnering retail pharmacies (including Big-Y, Brookshire’s, Coborn’s, Hartig Drug Company, King Kullen, Food City, Ingles, Raley’s, Save Mart, SpartanNash, Price Chopper, Tops Markets, ShopRite, and Wegmans) were also included.
These participants are to receive a direct allocation of COVID-19 vaccine to help jurisdictions augment access to vaccine when supply increases and the vaccine is recommended beyond the initial critical populations.
“We’re proud to take part in this groundbreaking public health campaign, which could significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19,” said Jeffrey Mondelli, VP of pharmacy, health and beauty for Wakefern, the logistics, distribution and merchandising arm for ShopRite stores. “The federal program is aiming to mass immunize the population throughout the spring of 2021, and our pharmacists are up to the challenge and ready to help our communities.”
ShopRite Pharmacy is also working closely with state and local jurisdictions to participate in earlier phases of the campaign that aim to reach priority populations, including healthcare workers, long-term care facility residents and frontline workers.
With supermarkets throughout the Northeast—many of which are in densely populated areas—ShopRite has been working through the pandemic to ensure that communities have access to fresh foods and necessities.
“We are proud to partner with the CDC and HHS to offer the vaccine to our shoppers at our participating ShopRite Pharmacy locations once it is available,” added Mondelli. “By working with these federal agencies and a network of pharmacy partners, we can help rapidly expand access to COVID-19 vaccines in the neighborhoods served by our ShopRite Pharmacy stores. This is the next step in helping to revitalize our communities.”