Apr 1, 2021 - Economy

The vaccine rollout is a boon for the pharmacy business

Patients receive the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at Copes pharmacy in Streatham on February 04, 2021 in London, England.

Patients receive the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at Copes pharmacy in Streatham on February 04 in London, England. Photo: Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

Vaccine side effect for pharmacies: It's a boon for business.

Why it matters: Pharmacies are at the forefront of the biggest countrywide undertaking of our lifetime, the vaccination rollout.

Then: The onset of the pandemic crushed sales as in-store customers and prescriptions slowed to a crawl.

  • Now: Shots bring people into pharmacies, where they have to hang out during the 15-minute observation period — creating a big opportunity for sales.

Driving the news: The Biden administration this week expanded the number of pharmacies eligible for vaccine supply from the government. (States can allocate doses, too.)

  • Later this month, 40,000 of the nation's 57,000 pharmacies will be able to administer shots — up from 17,000.

The backdrop: Pharmacies had been under pressure as competitors (like Amazon and other big-box retailers) strengthened their foothold.

  • Walgreens expects to "increase traffic" as shots are administered in their stores, then "personalize" what they learn about those customers coming into the store, CEO Rosalind Brewer told analysts Wednesday.
  • The company has upped expectations for how much money it will rake in this year, thanks in part to a more aggressive vaccination timeline — and higher government reimbursements for each shot (now $40 apiece, up from $28 for the first dose and $16 for the second dose — though it's not guaranteed).

By the numbers: Pharmacies have more capacity for shots, if they get supply.

  • CVS said today it has given more than 10 million vaccine doses across 44 states. The chain says it could administer up to 25 million shots per month.
  • Walgreens has administered 8 million vaccines at stores, nursing homes and vaccination sites — with half in March alone.
  • Rite Aid has given more than 1 million vaccines since the beginning of last month.

Go deeper: Demand for vaccines is already waning in some parts of the country

Go deeper