Announced Feb. 2 by the Biden Administration, the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccination (FRPP) is a collaboration between the federal government, states and territories, and 21 national pharmacy partners and independent pharmacy networks to increase access to COVID-19 vaccinations. The program is kicking off next week with 1 million doses being distributed across the country in most U.S. states and territories, including 26 Texas pharmacies that are members of American Pharmacies.
As vaccine availability increases, the program will ultimately expand to include all 40,000+ pharmacies in the nation, according to AmerisourceBergen (ABDC), our wholesale distributor. Distribution will start at 1 million doses per week to all retail pharmacy partners and will rise over time as supplies improve. For the foreseeable future, all vaccine shipped under this initiative will be the Moderna vaccine, which requires only normal freezer temperatures for storage and has a refrigerated shelf life of 7 days.
Because the Phase 1 rollout differs from state to state and jurisdiction to jurisdiction, each participating pharmacy will receive directions/guidance from the appropriate state or local health jurisdiction about which specific populations to vaccinate. This guidance could address specific ZIP codes or other geographic areas, specific facilities (nursing homes, rehab centers, etc.) or special patient populations.
The new FRPP program supplements current Phase 1 distribution efforts and does not replace the federal government’s planned nationwide Phase II distribution plan in which the drug wholesalers will participate. Phase II is expected to kick off when vaccine supplies improve substantially, not before March.
ABDC said is still working closely with the CDC on the Phase II partnership but does not have a firm launch date. It advises that that the interval between the CDC's announced Phase II launch date and the rollout of vaccine shipments to participating GNP pharmacies will be short – most likely 2-3 days. APRx and GNP urge any of our members who have not yet completed all the requirements to receive vaccine allocations to do so immediately.
- The 21 partners include CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Costco, PSAOs for all three major drug wholesalers (ABDC, Cardinal and McKesson), CPESN and all major grocery chains (including HEB and others in Texas).
Though some partners -- such as CVS, Walgreens and Walmart -– will participate in virtually all targeted states, the CDC divided the states/territories among the major wholesalers & CPESN (wholesalers did not get to pick their states):
ABDC/GNP was assigned Texas, Kentucky, Nebraska, Guam and Kansas (KS will be shared by all wholesalers).
- Texas isn’t being shared by another wholesaler, though CVS, Walgreens, HEB, Walmart, etc. also will receive vaccine in Texas under the program.
- CPESN was assigned Indiana, Kansas & Oklahoma.
- McKesson was assigned Missouri, Oregon & Washington state, plus Kansas (everyone shares KS).
Cardinal was assigned 9 states: GNP did not list them all, but said they include Michigan, Mississippi and Nebraska, plus Kansas.
How Pharmacies Are Selected
- The CDC established “heat zones” in states and local jurisdictions, representing high concentrations of vulnerable populations that are underserved by current vaccination efforts.
ABDC/GNP worked with the CDC to establish the initial list of GNP/Elevate pharmacies in these heat zones. ABDC identified eligible pharmacies, but CDC made the final determination.
- Not all eligible GNP/Elevate pharmacies in Texas were selected for the program. Some have not completed all the requirements to enroll as vaccinators with GNP.
Because of supply constraints, not all eligible pharmacies were selected for the week 1 distribution. All selected pharmacies will eventually receive vaccine as supplies improve.
- ABDC says the CDC sets the timeline for expanding the Phase I program to more pharmacies, and that the agency has not released a timeline at this point.
- ABDC stresses that any vaccine-ready pharmacy not selected for the new Phase I program is still included in the planned Phase II distribution.
To be selected for the new Phase I initiative, GNP/Elevate pharmacies:
- Must be located in an area targeted by the CDC as a heat zone.
Must have completed all GNP vaccine registration requirements, including CDC training through GNP University and registration for Vaccine Finder (See this GNP newsletter for a full list of all registration requirements).
- Must be signed up with the state vaccine registry.
Must not be receiving, or signed up to receive, vaccine from a competing federal distribution partner. This primarily applies to CPESN and GeriMed, as some APRx members are both GNP members and enrolled in CPESN or GeriMed. The CDC will flag any doubly registered pharmacy it identifies and notify GNP. A GNP pharmacy signed up to receive vaccine through CPESN or GeriMed must cancel that registration if it wants to be eligible to receive vaccine through GNP. You cannot participate with more than one federal partner.
Must have GNP Premiere or Elevate Advanced services – ABC has taken heat for this requirement, but says that GNP Premiere or Elevate Advanced is necessary for pharmacies to do the extensive vaccine reporting the CDC requires.
- ABC says it understands the frustration of APRx members who are ready to vaccinate and were not among the 26 in Texas selected to get a Week 1 shipment, but that its initial allocation was very limited.
Initial Vaccine Distribution & Dose Limits
- As mentioned before, the initial distribution amount will be 1 million doses per week total to all 21 partners, rising as supplies improve.
- Unlike in the upcoming Phase II distribution, vaccine will be direct-shipped by the federal government to selected pharmacies. ABDC is acting as coordinator -- not a distributor -- in the program.
- Distributions will start next week (week of Feb. 8).
- GNP is notifying selected pharmacies and sending additional information on next steps.
Each selected pharmacy will be limited to 100 doses per week. The 100-dose limit applies to every pharmacy of every partner in this program.
GNP/Elevate Pharmacy Enrollment
- We have been pressing GNP for weeks to reopen pharmacy enrollment in its Phase II vaccination network, and GNP said it will allow pharmacies to continue to enroll for the Phase I and Phase II programs:
The CDC allows GNP to submit an updated provider list by the 15th of each month to allow those providers to participate in distributions for the following calendar month.
GNP submits its list to the CDC on the 13th of each month, so newly enrolling pharmacies realistically will not have time to make the Feb. 15 list (unless they are VERY close to satisfying ALL requirements). Pharmacies just starting their enrollment process with GNP now would not be eligible for participation until April.
GNP has identified the pharmacies that have failed to complete one or more enrollment requirements and will share that list with us. We’ll be reaching out to those pharmacies to educate/motivate them to finish the enrollment process and to offer assistance as we can.
ABDC/GNP/Elevate Continue to Advocate for Pharmacy
The expansion of Phase 1 efforts to include pharmacies is due in part to ongoing lobbying efforts by GNP leaders and the ABDC federal lobby team with the CDC to win a greater place for independent pharmacy in the vaccine rollout. GNP President Brian Nightengale and other GNP leaders have been engaged in weekly dialogue with the CDC since September, and along with NCPA, helped bring about the federal government's announcement of independent pharmacy's involvement in Phase II of the federal rollout. The ABDC federal team has been advocating on behalf of independents with Congress and the new administration. American Pharmacies also is engaged in Texas and other selected states in pushing for greater pharmacy inclusion in state vaccine rollouts.