Apr. 12—CVS Health announced Monday that it will begin vaccinating eligible populations this week at 10 pharmacies in Maine by appointment only, despite a marked decline in production and distribution of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine nationwide.
Participating CVS pharmacies are in Augusta, Biddeford, Brunswick, Cape Elizabeth, Freeport, Kennebunk, Lewiston, Portland, Sanford and Westbrook. They join several other pharmacy chains and affiliates that are vaccinating against COVID-19 in Maine, including Walgreens, Hannaford, Walmart, Shaw's, Good Neighbor, The Medicine Shoppe and Community Pharmacy.
CVS appointments will become available for booking online or by phone starting Tuesday as stores receive shipments of vaccine, the national pharmacy chain said in a written statement. Vaccination is now open to all Mainers 16 and older.
"We're proud to play a part in increasing access to the vaccine to as many people as possible to enable reopening efforts in the communities we serve," said Neela Montgomery, president of CVS Pharmacy.
Whether CVS and other retail pharmacies will be able to sustain significant vaccination numbers is unclear, however, amid a massive decline in production and distribution of the J&J vaccine.
CVS pharmacies in Maine received 1,800 vaccine doses last week through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, including 1,600 doses of the one-shot J&J vaccine and 200 doses of the two-shot Moderna vaccine, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
This week, however, CVS will receive only 600 additional J&J doses, along with an additional 200 Moderna doses. Statewide, retail pharmacies will receive only 2,600 J&J doses this week, a drop of nearly 88 percent from 21,100 doses received last week.
Still unable to win federal approval of its troubled manufacturing contractor in Baltimore, Johnson & Johnson has backed off a previous pledge to deliver 24 million additional doses by the end of April, The Washington Post reported. As a result, the Biden administration slashed its national allocation of the J&J vaccine to states by 86 percent, from nearly 5 million last week to just 700,000 doses this week.
CVS was unable to provide insight into the reduced supply of J&J vaccine or how the pharmacy chain might respond to it.
"We stand ready to open up more appointments when more vaccine supply is available," said Mary Gattuso, CVS spokeswoman.
Patients choosing CVS must register in advance at CVS.com, through the CVS Pharmacy app or by calling CVS customer service at 800-746-7287. Vaccinations will not be provided without an appointment.
Depending on an adequate supply, CVS Health plans to administer vaccines at over 6,000 CVS pharmacies across 49 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., which are within 5 miles of 70 percent of the U.S. population. CVS says it has the capacity to administer 25 million shots per month nationwide.
The pace of inoculations was expected to accelerate as more vaccine became available and as the federal vaccine eligibility plan expands to include all U.S. adults beginning April 19.
The vaccine is available to all at no cost.