Walgreens Says Pandemic Hurting Visits to Pharmacies

Pharmacy foot traffic is down as Covid-19 precautions thwart the seasonal flu and people skip routine medical care and generally avoid stores, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. executives said on Thursday.

The company said overall revenue expanded in the quarter ended Nov. 30 amid stronger sales for prescription medicines even as the pandemic continued to make some consumers hesitant to visit its stores. The quarterly results came a day after Walgreens agreed to sell its pharmacy wholesale unit for $6.5 billion.

The drugstore chain also said any gains it generates from providing Covid-19 vaccinations are likely to be offset by pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions. Walgreens is working with government officials to vaccinate residents and staff at more than 35,000 long-term-care facilities in 49 states, according to the company. It is also preparing for mass vaccinations at its retail locations later this year.

“We have the capacity and are ready to vaccinate tens of millions of Americans,” said Alexander Gourlay, Walgreens co-chief operating officer. The company has 30,000 staff to assist with its effort and is seeking to increase that to 45,000 in the next three months, he said.

On Wednesday, CVS Health Corp. , which is also providing the vaccines at long-term-care facilities, said some staffers at such sites had been hesitant to be vaccinated, slowing the rollout of the shots. CVS and Walgreens said they expected to deliver first doses at nursing homes by Jan. 25.

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