CVS Health plans to contact people living in underserved communities around the United States to help them schedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments amid signs that white people are getting the free vaccine at higher rates than Black Americans.
The drugstore chain said Friday it will call, email and text-message people living in what the federal government has deemed socially vulnerable areas to provide assistance in the vaccine process.
The move comes amid reports that Americans are struggling to navigate various scheduling systems, website crashes and a sluggish rollout of the two vaccines approved so far.
CVS also said it will hold vaccine clinics in the most vulnerable communities it serves and send vaccination caravans into neighborhoods to make it easier for people to get their shots.
Research published in 2020 concluded that about 34% of coronavirus deaths in the period studied were Black people even though African Americans make up only 12% of the American population.
With nearly 10,000 locations, nearly half of them in communities ranked “high or very high” on the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Social Vulnerability Index,” CVS is expected to play a significant role in the nationwide rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. The company has said its 90,000 clinicians can administer 25 million a month.
Nearly eight in 10 Americans live within five miles of a CVS.
“Recognizing that there is increased hesitancy among communities of color, it was really important for us to address this through a multipronged strategy of vaccine education, access and equity,” CVS Care’s Sree Chaguturu said.
CVS began scheduling appointments a week ago for people at 350 stores across 11 states: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. It says it eventually will expand access to all of its stores but is currently limited to states in which the federal government is providing vaccines for it to administer. Other pharmacy chains are currently limited as well.
Chaguturu wouldn’t say how many people CVS hopes to reach out to or how many clinics it plans to conduct outside of its stores.
Chaguturu said CVS call center workers will help people set up appointments over the phone or guide them through the digital scheduling system.
CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Kroger and many other major retailers with pharmacies began administering COVID-19 vaccines a week ago after receiving their first vaccines for retail distribution.
Read more at USA Today.