Walmart Inc plans to offer COVID-19 vaccines in at least seven additional states in the coming days, significantly expanding the availability of shots as the US grapples with a slower-than-expected rollout.
The world’s largest retailer, which had already been providing inoculations to eligible people in New Mexico and Arkansas, will broaden the effort to select stores in Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, South Carolina, and Texas, a Walmart representative said Friday. The company will also offer vaccinations in Chicago and Puerto Rico.
The move comes as US President Joe Biden tries to accelerate the country’s halting effort to vaccinate the population against the coronavirus and combat the threat of new strains. As of Thursday, about 56.7 million doses in 52 countries had been administered, including 18.4 million shots in the US, according to data collected by Bloomberg.
Walmart is currently working with individual states to administer doses. The company is also part of a federal programme that will send shots to pharmacies across the country. That programme could start in early February, Biden said this week.
“We appreciate the conversations we have had with both administrations and the ongoing conversations we are having with the new Biden Administration,” Cheryl Pegus, Walmart’s executive vice-president of health and wellness, said in a blog post Friday.
Walmart has the capacity to give up to 13 million shots a month “when supply and allocations allow,” she said. The retailer’s footprint spans rural America, offering a way to reach people that live in health care deserts.
Walmart shares rose 1.4 per cent at 9:55 am in New York on Friday. Reuters had earlier reported the company’s expansion plan.