The Kenai Walmart is one of seven Walmart stores in Alaska that began offering Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine to eligible customers on Friday as part of a new federal partnership program that launched this week.
Walmart Inc. was one of 21 national pharmacies and independent pharmacy networks to be enrolled in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccination. According to Walmart, more than 1,000 of the company’s retail locations in 22 states received federal vaccine allocations this week and were able to start vaccinating customers on Feb. 12.
Other Walmart locations that began offering the COVID vaccine in Alaska include pharmacies in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Ketchikan, Kodiak and Wasilla. As of Friday, Walmart was Alaska’s first and only Federal Retail Pharmacy Partner.
In determining which Walmart locations would offer the vaccine, the company worked with the CDC and states to take factors like population density and the availability of local health care providers into consideration. At the federal level, pharmacy chains were selected based on their capability to store vaccines, the population served and their ability to meet data reporting requirements, among others. In addition to Walmart, program partners include Walgreens, CVS Pharmacy Inc. and Rite Aid Corp., among others.
According to the CDC, participating pharmacies are expected to receive around one million doses of vaccine each week in the early stages of the program, to be distributed to select locations across the country. As vaccine supply increases, more retail locations will be added.
Vaccination appointments can be scheduled on Walmart’s website at walmart.com/covidvaccine. Customers will be asked to sign in with an existing Walmart account, or to create an account. This will assist the pharmacy in scheduling appointments for customers’ second dose in the appropriate time frame. Appointments will be offered seven days a week.
Walmart Market Health and Wellness Director Richard Holt, who is based in Wasilla, said Friday that Alaska’s participating Walmart pharmacies received 1,400 doses of vaccine for the week, which came out to 200 doses for each location. Twenty doses were administered at Kenai’s Walmart on Friday, Holt said.
The doses that Walmart receives through the federal program are separate from states’ vaccine allocations, Holt said. Meaning, the 1,400 that Alaska Walmarts were given this week are in addition to the state’s monthly allocation.
Alaska currently leads the nation in the percentage of the population that has received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. 15.9% of Alaska’s population has received at least one dose, according to NPR’s COVID-19 vaccine tracker. That is compared to the nationwide percentage of 10.5%.
For the months of December, January and February, Alaska received an allocation of 174,400 pairs of vaccine, or 348,800 total doses including first and second doses. According to the state’s COVID-19 vaccination dashboard, 10,805 doses had been administered in the Kenai Peninsula Borough, including 8,020 initial doses and 2,785 second doses.
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced last week the eligibility of a new group of Alaskans to receive the COVID vaccine that includes pre-K through 12th grade teachers, people age 50 and older with certain high-risk medical conditions and at-risk pandemic response staff, among others. Other groups eligible to receive the vaccine in Alaska include most health care workers, people age 65 or older, long-term care residents and staff.
People can check whether or not they are eligible to receive the vaccine and learn more about vaccination efforts in Alaska at covidvax.alaska.gov.
As of Friday, the Kenai Walmart’s pharmacy was one of 14 locations on the Kenai Peninsula offering the COVID-19 vaccine to eligible groups. A map of vaccine providers can be found on DHSS’ COVID-19 vaccine website at covidvax.alaska.gov. Many providers are using the state’s program to schedule appointments, which can be accessed at myhealth.alaska.gov. Instructions on how to schedule an appointment with a provider that does not use the state’s scheduling system can be found on the provider map by clicking on the icon of the provider through which people would like to schedule an appointment.
People who would like assistance with scheduling an appointment to be vaccinated can call the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management call center. The center operates Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. The central peninsula call center can be reached at 907-262-4636. The Homer call center can be reached at 907-235-4636. The Seward call center can be reached at 907-224-4636.