WASHINGTON — As states across the country struggle to find the best ways to distribute vaccines equitably, CVS Health announced Friday it plans to proactively reach out to customers living in underserved communities to help them schedule COVID-19 vaccinations.
The move is part of the company's community-based strategy to increase vaccine access in Black and Hispanic communities.
Communities of color have felt the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic, but data has shown a racial disparity in the initial phases of the U.S. vaccination drive.
"We are committed to reaching people of color and underserved communities to ensure health equity as we work to vaccinate all Americans," said Karen S. Lynch, President and CEO, CVS Health. "Our presence in communities across the country uniquely positions CVS Health to educate vulnerable populations and connect them with vaccine administration services."
A limited number of CVS Pharmacy locations in 11 states are giving out vaccines through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, a state and federal partnership that targets getting immunizations in underserved areas. CVS Health said it plans to reach out to pharmacy customers, Aetna members, and CVS Caremark members in vulnerable communities near those locations to help them make appointments.
The pharmacy chain said it also wants to work to answer questions and address any concerns members of underserved communities may have about being vaccinated.
The 11 states where CVS is offering vaccinations from the federal program includes: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia.
As the vaccine supply increases, CVS said it's also planning to use mobile vaccination vans and do community-based clinics in March and April, working with the YMCA and other nonprofit groups.
"Throughout the pandemic, the Y has worked to meet the needs of the 10,000 communities we serve across the United States," said Kevin Washington, president and CEO, YMCA of the USA. "We are proud to team up with CVS Health as part of our efforts to help ensure everyone has equitable access to accurate information about the vaccines and to the vaccines themselves, especially communities of color, which have been disproportionately affected by the health and economic impacts of the virus."
An Associated Press analysis of data from 17 states found that Black people in all places are getting inoculated at levels below their share of the general population, in some cases significantly below.