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CVS Health CEO says it has 10,000 staffers ready to vaccinate seniors at nursing homes

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CVS Health Chief Executive Larry Merlo said the company is ready to administer “vaccines into the arms of some of our most vulnerable populations” within 24 to 48 hours upon receiving its share of Covid-19 vaccines.

“We’re ready to go. We’re in great shape and as I mentioned, people are excited to be an important part of this solution,” Merlo said Thursday in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

Health-care workers and residents and staff at long-term care facilities should be the first in line for the Covid-19 vaccines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The decision of who gets the shots first is ultimately made by states and jurisdictions.

Merlo said the company has 10,000 health care professionals ready to administer the shots in nursing homes and assisted living centers. He said the company “has been hiring individuals since this pandemic began” to help with Covid-19 testing. And, he added, it has experience giving seasonal flu shots at long-term care facilities.

“Pending approval, I’m confident that we’ll be in thousands of facilities before the Christmas holiday,” he said.

The government struck a deal in October with CVS and Walgreens to administer the coronavirus vaccinations to residents and staff at long-term care facilities across the country. The vaccines will be free and will be given at on-site clinics at each location, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Over 40,000 long-term care facilities across the U.S. have selected CVS to administer vaccinations at their long-term care facilities. About 30,000 skilled nursing and assisted living facilities nationwide have selected Walgreens as their vaccine provider.

As part of the massive effort, CVS and Walgreens have had to make sure they have enough staff to fan out to the centers and speed up the process.

Merlo said the company has turned to pharmacy schools to find and recruit pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy interns. He said it’s also hired health-care professionals who are retired, but still have their licenses and are willing to work part-time.

He said all CVS pharmacies already have refrigerators and freezers that can store five of the six vaccine candidates at the proper temperature. He said only one of the six vaccine candidates — the one from Pfizer — will require a special kind of storage.

The Pfizer vaccine will be distributed in special thermal shippers that can help give it a life cycle of 15 days, Merlo said. It can then be stored an additional five days in the drugstore’s typical cooling equipment that can freeze or refrigerate, he said.

During the coronavirus pandemic, more than 15 million Americans have gotten sick and more than 286,000 have died from Covid-19, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. On Wednesday, the U.S. recorded 3,124 new coronavirus deaths, making it the deadliest day of the pandemic, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.

Read more coronavirus updates here.

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