Walmart has been the one place you probably haven't stopped going to throughout the pandemic. But like everywhere else in the world, it's gone through some major changes over the last year, from mask mandates at its stores nationwide, to limiting the amount of customers, to caps on how many of a certain item you can buy due to significant shortages. Now, with 150 million people in the U.S. vaccinated with at least one dose so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Walmart's making another change at its stores across the country to help get us one step closer to normal. Read on to find out what's new at Walmart, and for more news from this massive retailer, find out why This One Thing Is Disappearing From 300 Walmart Stores.
Walmart is now offering same-day COVID vaccinations at its pharmacies nationwide.
Throughout the first quarter of the year, getting a vaccine appointment was a major challenge. With many eager to get their shots, the pharmaceutical companies' supply chains were struggling to keep up with the demand. But now that that's no longer an issue, stores like Walmart are making it easier than ever to get vaccinated. If you haven't gotten your COVID vaccine yet, you can now walk into Walmarts nationwide and get vaccinated on the spot.
According to an announcement from the company on May 4, all Walmart and Sam's Club pharmacy locations in the U.S. are now offering same-day, walk-in COVID vaccinations. The company says its more than 5,100 pharmacies are authorized to administer all three COVID vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson&Johnson. On top of that, you're not required to be a Sam's Club member to receive a vaccination at one of the locations.
"Now that supply and eligibility have expanded, it's even more important for us to reach underserved and vulnerable populations to ensure equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine," Cheryl Pegus, MD, Executive Vice President of Health&Wellness for Walmart, said in a statement. "Widespread vaccination is the only way we will eventually end the pandemic and help our country reopen, and we don't want anyone to get left behind as we enter this new chapter in our fight against COVID-19."
And if you're prepping for your shot, know that Doctors Say Do These 2 Things the Morning of Your Vaccine Appointment.
If you'd prefer, you can still book a vaccine appointment at a Walmart or Sam's Club near you.
If you don't want to risk your local Walmart or Sam's Club pharmacy being out of the vaccine—a less likely situation now that supply has caught up with demand—these locations are also still offering pre-scheduled appointments for COVID vaccinations.
"Customers who schedule an appointment in advance can complete pre-vaccination paperwork ahead of time, if interested," the company said.
If you want to schedule an appointment at any of the pharmacy locations, you can go to either Walmart or Sam's Club's official websites. Walmart pharmacies are open seven days a week, while Sam's Club pharmacies are open six days a week (they're closed on Sundays).
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Other nationwide pharmacy chains are offering walk-in vaccinations and same-day appointments now.
Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid are also offering same-day appointments for the COVID vaccine at some of their stores. This week, Walgreens announced that it would start providing same-day COVID vaccination appointments at its stores on May 5. The company has also rolled out walk-in appointments at select stores nationwide as well as mobile clinics in Chicago, which will become available in other areas of the country in the near future.
CVS started allowing same-day appointments on April 23, where customers have been able to schedule their vaccination in as little as an hour before, company spokesman Mike DeAngelis told CNBC. And Rite Aid is also allowing walk-in vaccinations on a limited basis, according to the news outlet.
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These efforts come as COVID vaccination rates are slowing across the U.S.
Retailers' decisions to open same-day, walk-in appointments comes at a time in which vaccinations have slowed across the U.S. According to The New York Times, the average number of people getting a first or single dose of a COVID vaccine each day has fallen by about 50 percent from the highest recorded day for COVID vaccinations, which was April 13.
While the CDC and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s decision to temporarily pause the Johnson&Johnson vaccine may have contributed to hesitancy and the slowing rate of vaccinations, experts also say this was inevitable. With about 40 percent of the population vaccinated, most people who were eager to get their shots have done so already—and the rest of the public seems to be undecided. "We had always anticipated we would start to see a deceleration around late April," Josh Geballe, Connecticut's chief operating officer, told The New York Times. "You start running out of people to vaccinate. It would naturally start to slow down."
In an April 30 interview on All In With Chris Hayes on MSNBC, Syra Madad, DHS, an infectious disease epidemiologist, said, "If we are to look at getting out of this pandemic, we want to try to vaccinate as many people as possible. And we're going to hit a wall, I would say probably in the next couple of weeks, where we're going to have a surplus of vaccine supplies and less demand for it. You're seeing that now as … you know, less number of people are getting vaccinated on a daily basis."
But making the shots more accessible, as Walmart has, is one way to help people who aren't able to prioritize getting vaccinated. However, the problem is deeper than that. "We certainly want to address vaccine hesitancy right on and front on, if you will," Madad said. "The reasons why people accept, decline, or just want to wait are for many different reasons—it could be because of their political affiliations. And you're seeing more Republicans refused to get vaccinated. It could also be because of personal experience, knowledge gaps. It could be because of, you know, racism and general awareness. So, there's many different factors here at play that we want to address, you know, very specifically and very methodically, and with compassion and empathy."
And for more on the ongoing pandemic, find out why Dr. Fauci Says "Herd Immunity" Is No Longer the Goal With COVID—This Is.