More independent community pharmacies, including those that serve long-term care facilities, will soon be able to administer coronavirus vaccines, thanks to a new initiative launched by the federal government. 

The White House announced on Tuesday that the federal government will make 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses available directly to 6,500 retail pharmacies starting Feb. 11.

The program, which was originally announced in mid-November, is a public-private partnership with dozens of national pharmacy partners and networks of independent pharmacies to expand access to vaccines for those eligible. Walgreens (PharMerica) and CVS (Omnicare) are among those listed for the first phase of distribution. 

The launch of the program was applauded Tuesday by the National Community Pharmacies Association. 

“When independent pharmacies have access to the vaccine, they are able to quickly get the coronavirus shots in patients’ arms. We are encouraged by these efforts to accelerate vaccine distribution, and strongly encourage the administration and state policymakers to fully include small business pharmacies in their plans,” NCPA Chief Executive B. Douglas Hoey said in a statement. 

Long-term care pharmacies have stressed the need for their involvement in the vaccine process. The use of independent retail pharmacies has been a successful strategy for West Virginia in particular. The state has been praised for how quickly it was able to distribute and fully complete administration of the vaccine to long-term care facilities after it opted out of the CVS-Walgreens/government Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care program.