CALLING THE SHOTS

H-E-B to distribute COVID-19 vaccines in San Antonio stores and across Texas

H-E-B to distribute COVID-19 vaccines in San Antonio and across state

COVID-19 vaccine Baylor College of Medicine
H-E-B plans to offer COVID-19 vaccines once they're available. Photo courtesy of BCM

As a pair of COVID-19 vaccines await emergency-use approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Texas’ largest grocer is prepping for the vaccines' unprecedented rollout.

San Antonio-based H-E-B announced its pharmacies will administer the COVID-19 vaccine to Texans once it’s available to the general public.

“At H-E-B, the health and safety of Texans is our top priority,” the company noted in a release posted December 3. “As a trusted source for all routine childhood and adult immunizations, H-E-B pharmacies will partner with the federal and state government to administer the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to the general public, following the CDC distribution schedule.”

Though it’s unclear when H-E-B will receive the vaccine doses and which company’s vaccine —Moderna, the Pfizer/BioNTech, or otherwise — will be available through the grocer, health-focused organizations and businesses like H-E-B are preparing for the massive distribution, which could begin as soon as 24 hours after the FDA gives its approval.

The goal of Operation Warp Speed, the federal government’s plan to help develop, make, and distribute millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses to Americans, is “to deliver safe vaccines that work, with the first supply becoming available before the end of 2020,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC also notes once a vaccine is approved and released, there may not be enough doses available for all U.S. adults, though supplies will increase over time and “all adults should be able to get vaccinated later in 2021.”

The CDC further states that vaccine doses purchased with taxpayer money will be distributed to Americans for free. However, vaccine providers can charge an administration fee for providing the shot.

It’s unclear how many doses each store will receive and whether the company plans to distribute the vaccine through its pharmacy drive-thrus, at onsite pop-up medical tents, or solely from its in-store pharmacies.

“We do have all H-E-B pharmacies registered and ready to administer the vaccine,” says Leslie Sweet, H-E-B’s director of public affairs in the Central Texas region. “We will follow the prescribed allocation schedule as prescribed by [the Department of State Health Services]. We do not yet have a specific date or allocation number to share.”

H-E-B pharmacies throughout the state already have some safety measures in place because of COVID-19 concerns, including allowing customers to prepay for prescriptions on the phone prior to picking them up or have their prescriptions delivered for free, and offering no-contact pickup and delivery of prescriptions through its pharmacy drive-thrus.

Additionally, H-E-B says it is continuing to take steps to protect its customers and employees during the pandemic.

“We’re going above and beyond our already stringent sanitation standards, cleaning and disinfecting pharmacy counters, waiting areas, and drive-thru surfaces at a higher frequency,” the grocer notes in its recent release. “Our pharmacy partners are practicing proper hand-washing throughout the day, and disinfecting and wiping down commonly used surfaces. We’ve also installed acrylic barriers and provided masks and gloves for all pharmacy partners. … As always, your health and safety is of the utmost importance to us. Together, we can slow the spread.”