INDIANAPOLIS — Two of the nation's largest pharmacy chains are expecting shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine from state health departments by next week.
Those supplies are supposed to combat the surge of infection plaguing long-term care facilities.
As advocacy groups call for states to move quickly, Walgreens and CVS talk about their plans to hire and to help.
Forty-thousand long-term skilled nursing homes and assisted living centers are on deck for the next round of COVID-19 vaccines.
According to the American Health Care Association, the number of COVID cases in nursing homes is at an all time high, surpassing numbers from the spring.
Facilities like Brandywine in Greenfield have seen the number of COVID-19 deaths among residents go from 3 to 20.
And the surge has created staffing shortages.
"We feel very strongly that we need to bring the resources and all the help we can to people who have really been hammered by this pandemic," said Dr. Kevin Ban, Chief Medical Director at Walgreens.
"This disease has separated us from our loved ones and it limits access. And this vaccine opens up the doors," added Tim Lackey, Vice President of Talent Acquisition for CVS Health.
Both pharmacies will begin delivering COVID-19 vaccines nationwide and across Indiana, as soon as next week, to those who have suffered most.
"This is a very effective vaccine, more importantly it's a very safe vaccine," Dr. Ban told 13News in hopes of reassuring families who might have questions.
CVS is bracing for the demand and is hiring additional pharmacists, RNs with immunization certificates and pharmacy techs who are open to gaining an on-the-job certification to administer the vaccines.
"We're back-filling positions, we're sending in reinforcements and we're incrementally adding some positions to be able to handle the increased volume," Lackey explained.
Both pharmacies believe long histories of providing flu shots will help the process move more smoothly.
"We can expect within a few months that this vaccine will be available to the general population," Dr. Ban said.
The American Health Care Association estimates it's likely to take months to get both doses needed for full protection administered to all nursing and assisted living residents. Still, they're calling on states to move quickly to get it done by March 1.