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CVS, Walgreens hiring thousands of workers in advance of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout

The pharmacy giants will eventually play a key role in its distribution.

A man walked under a "Now Hiring" sign at a CVS Pharmacy in San Francisco.
A man walked under a "Now Hiring" sign at a CVS Pharmacy in San Francisco.Jeff Chiu/AP/file

To prepare for the nationwide distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, Rhode Island-based CVS Health Corp. and Illinois-based Walgreens are hiring workers by the thousands.

In an e-mail to some customers over the weekend, CVS said it is “urgently” looking to bolster its workforce so it can distribute vaccines to the public when they are available. A page on its website details the hiring push for what it calls the “COVID-19 Vaccine Support Team,” comprised of pharmacists, nurses and pharmacy technicians that will help administer “millions of vaccines in 2021.”

If a vaccine candidate is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, both CVS and Walgreens will help with the initial distribution of vaccines to people living and working in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes. Later on, the companies will also help to vaccinate the general public.

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Jeff Lackey, vice president of talent acquisition at CVS, said the company planned to hire 15,000 workers across the United States in the fourth quarter, including 10,000 pharmacy technicians — at first to help administer a wave of flu shots, but soon to distribute COVID-19 vaccines. As of Tuesday, CVS has hired more than 9,000 pharmacy techs ahead of the expected vaccine rollout, and it plans to hire more.

In addition to giving patients the vaccine injection, pharmacy technicians also handle administrative work, he said.

In Massachusetts, CVS still wants hire 240 pharmacy technicians — 220 of whom will be based in the Boston area — and more than 2,500 retail workers as part of the effort. Lackey said CVS will offer additional money — called “Hero Pay” — to workers that help to administer the vaccine in long-term care facilities, because of the added risk and effort.

In addition to hiring full- and part-time positions, CVS will also bring on temporary employees. CVS has nearly 10,000 retail locations across the United States, including 413 in Massachusetts, where it employs about 14,000 people.

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“With approximately 70 percent of the US population living within three miles of a CVS Pharmacy, we’ll be easy to reach when a vaccine is authorized by the FDA and becomes available in retail settings,” said Troyen Brennan, the chief medical officer for CVS Health in a November press release.

Rina Shah, group vice president of pharmacy operations at Walgreens, said in a statement that the company has about 25,000 open positions, including between 8,000 and 9,000 jobs dedicated to supporting COVID-19 vaccine administration and testing.

Walgreens operates more than 9,000 stores in the US. The company said it would make COVID-19 vaccines available at all of its stores, which it says are located within 5 miles of 80 percent of the US population. Walgreens also said it is also prepared to use “different models of delivery to reach underserved areas, including mobile clinics.”



Anissa Gardizy can be reached at anissa.gardizy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @anissagardizy8.