Walmart began administering free COVID-19 vaccines by appointment in its Calhoun County stores on Friday. All available appointments appeared to have already been claimed.
The company is working with the federal government to administer the vaccines, and according to its website had opened appointments for Feb. 12-18 at its Oxford, Anniston and Jacksonville stores, along with the Oxford Sam’s Club.
As of Friday afternoon, no appointments remained available at Calhoun County stores or other nearby stores in Gadsden and Talladega.
State health officer Dr. Scott Harris said during a Friday morning press briefing that the Alabama Department of Public Health has no control over Walmart’s distribution planning or execution, though he did say the company is following eligibility guidelines from state to state.
“Walmart and the federal government worked together to determine which stores” received vaccines, Harris said. ADPH has received calls from residents wondering why their local stores hadn’t received vaccines. “The answer is, ‘I don’t know.’”
It’s uncertain exactly how many doses will arrive at each store, and how often they’ll be replenished. Harris said Walmart plans to distribute about 14,800 doses per week in Alabama, which he worked out to around 200 doses per store.
“This is a federal allocation,” Harris noted, “and it does not subtract from Alabama’s allocation.”
Making an appointment for a COVID vaccination requires creating an account on Walmart’s website; more information can be found at walmart.com/cp/1228302.
According to a blog post written late last month by Dr. Cheryl Pegus, Walmart’s executive vice president of healthcare and wellness, the chain of stores will be able to reach communities in rural “health care deserts” where vaccination options may be limited, as well as hold vaccination events in underserved communities at locations like churches, stadiums and youth centers.
“We have nearly 4,000 Walmart locations that are positioned within one or more of the federally designated medically underserved areas or where there are limited pharmacy options,” Pegus wrote.
Pegus states on the Walmart website that the company plans to distribute between 10 and 13 million doses per month “when supply and allocations allow.”
During the briefing, Harris said there are now about 1.5 million people in the state who meet eligibility requirements, including those in specific occupations like first responders and teachers, as well as risk groups such as those over the age of 65. The distribution rate has reached about 70,000 doses per week, he said.
So far, 125,553 residents have had both the first and second doses necessary for vaccination, according to the ADPH website.