US COVID-19 Vaccine Access Enabled by FRPP, a Government/Pharmacy Partnership

Access to bivalent COVID-19 vaccinations through September 2023 throughout the United States was enabled by a government/pharmacy partnership program that may provide a model for routine vaccination services and future public health emergencies, according to study findings published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

The Federal Retail Pharmacy Program (FRPP) is a collaboration of 21 national pharmacy chains and independent pharmacy networks as well as the federal government and government bodies in all 50 US states, territories, and the District of Columbia. This public/private partnership was established by the federal government in February 2021 to help expand the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Study investigators examined the role of the FRPP partners in delivering bivalent mRNA COVID-19 vaccine doses to Americans as a whole and to various US sociodemographic groups during a 13-month period of the pandemic. The investigators conducted an analysis using data from the FRPP reported directly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as jurisdictional immunization information systems data reported to the CDC from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, US territories, and freely associated states.

Analysis of data on bivalent mRNA vaccine doses administered September 2022 through September 2023 showed that the general US population received 59.8 million COVID-19 bivalent vaccine doses, of which 40.5 million (67.7%) were delivered by FRPP partners. By age, more than 7 in 10 adults (70.6%) age 18 to 49 years who received a vaccine got them from a partner source, as did 70.5% of adults 50 to 64 years of age and 69.3% of adults at least 65 years of age. FRPP delivered a lower percentage of the vaccines administered to children (54.1% for children aged 12 to 17 years; 33.6% for children aged 5 to 11 years, and  5.9% for children aged 6 months to 4 years).

[T]his program could serve as a model to address vaccination services needs for routine vaccines and to provide health services in other public health emergencies.

At least 45% of COVID-19 bivalent vaccine doses were administered by FRPP partners to racial and ethnic minorities (including individuals who were Hispanic or Latino, Asian, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, and Black). Notably, 10.9% of vaccines delivered by all providers were administered to individuals of unknown race/ethnicity, and 29.4% of individuals receiving vaccines from FRPP partners were of unknown race/ethnicity.

The FRPP partners administered 60.0% of all bivalent vaccine doses in rural areas and 81.6% in urban areas (rural/urban classification based on the county where the vaccine dose was administered and not on residence). By sex, more than two-thirds of women (68.6%) and men (66.9%) received vaccination from an FRPP partner.

Study limitations include the inability to estimate vaccination coverage from the data used, the lack on information on young children in FRPP data, the high percentage of individuals with unknown race/ethnicity, and the possibility that counties may have been misclassified as either urban or rural.

Overall, the researchers concluded that from September 2022 through September 2023, “the FRPP partnership administered approximately two-thirds of all bivalent COVID-19 vaccine doses in the US and provided vaccine access for persons across a wide range of sociodemographic groups, demonstrating that this program could serve as a model to address vaccination services needs for routine vaccines and to provide health services in other public health emergencies.”

This article originally appeared on Pulmonology Advisor

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