Grocers Step In to Speed Up Covid-19 Vaccine Rollout

Federal and state officials are tapping regional and supermarket-based pharmacies to help speed up administration of Covid-19 vaccines amid a slower-than-planned rollout.

Rite Aid Corp., Kroger Co. , Stop & Shop Supermarket LLC and other retailers are being asked to step in and provide inoculations to front-line workers and other vulnerable people. While the timeline is weeks earlier than planned, companies say they hope to test and troubleshoot protocols before distributing vaccines to the masses.

“We’re getting calls just because of the need,” said Colleen Lindholz, president of Kroger’s health-care business. Officials from South Carolina and Georgia reached out to Kroger this week, and the company has been providing shots to health-care professionals in its stores and sending staff to long-term facilities in Alaska, West Virginia, Texas and Arkansas.

The executives of Kroger and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., two of the biggest retailers involved in the vaccine effort, expressed frustration over what they said was a slower-than-necessary rollout because of holdups at the state and federal levels.

Kroger is also exploring ways to hold large events in community centers and stadiums that would allow it to vaccinate 600 to 800 people at a time, Ms. Lindholz said. She added that the nation’s biggest grocer could immunize a tremendous number of people if it had more access to inoculations.

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