Jan 7, 2022 - Health

COVID tests and vaccines lift Walgreens' profits

A blue sign inside a Walgreens pharmacy advertising COVID booster shots.

Walgreens administered 56 million COVID shots in 2021. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Walgreens increased profit projections for the rest of its fiscal year due to surging demand for at-home COVID-19 tests, drive-thru tests and vaccinations amid the latest outbreaks.

The big picture: Pharmacy chains continue to reap massive financial gains from the pandemic, as they often serve as the first place people go when they need a COVID test or vaccine.

By the numbers: In 2021, Walgreens employees administered 56 million COVID vaccines and conducted 23 million COVID tests.

  • Sales in health and wellness products in the most recent quarter were up 25% year over year, stemming almost entirely from people buying rapid tests.

Yes, but: All of this demand, as well as the highly transmissible Omicron variant, is crushing Walgreens' workforce.

  • Executives said there have been staffing shortages, which have prompted some stores to reduce their hours.
  • Walgreens' pharmacists also are having a difficult time keeping up with both filling prescriptions and giving COVID vaccines, so "there's been a high level of stress in the system," CFO James Kehoe said on a conference call.

Go deeper: Pharmacists are at a breaking point

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