By Elisabeth Buchwald
It will take more than a village to distribute the Pfizer /zigman2/quotes/202877789/composite PFE +2.58% and BioNTech /zigman2/quotes/214419716/composite BNTX +7.69% vaccine that was recently approved for emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration.
Efforts are already underway to transport and distribute the vaccine nationwide to health-care workers and residents of long-term care facilities who will receive priority access to the vaccine.
To speed up that process, Walgreens /zigman2/quotes/203410933/composite WBA -0.78% is looking to fill 25,000 positions that include nurses, pharmacists and other health-care workers to administer the vaccine to people who live in long-term care facilities.
CVS /zigman2/quotes/209664499/composite CVS +0.13% is also “urgently hiring thousands of qualified pharmacists, nurses and pharmacy technicians” on top of the 10,000 roles that have already been filled to help administer the vaccine, according to an email sent to customers.
The two drugstore chains struck a deal with the federal government in October to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine to nursing homes once one was approved.
Walmart /zigman2/quotes/207374728/composite WMT +0.32% is also preparing more than 5,000 “Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies to receive the vaccine doses” and “making sure we have freezers in all our pharmacies, as well as dry ice to handle any requirements for storing the vaccine,” Walmart’s chief medical officer, Dr. Tom Van Gilder, said in a company blog post on Dec. 10.
The company did not respond to MarketWatch’s request for a comment regarding whether they are planning to ramp up hiring.
Given that more than 10 million Americans remain unemployed due to the coronavirus-induced recession, there is intense demand to land a new job, many of which are in the services industry. Many Americans are hopeful that the arrival of the vaccine will usher in more job opportunities.
On Indeed, a job-posting site, the share of searches containing “vaccine” jumped by 116% from Dec. 1 to Dec 7, AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at Indeed, told MarketWatch.
“There’s been an uptick in the share of job postings that contain phrases like ‘COVID-19 vaccine’, ‘coronavirus vaccine’ in the job description,” she added. The majority of these postings are related to pharmacy, healthcare or scientific research opportunities.
“While there’s been a spotlight on the transportation angle of the vaccine, employers aren’t calling out the vaccine specifically in warehousing or transportation-related jobs,” Konkel said.
That may change as the vaccine makes its way to rural areas of the country, said Susan Beardslee, a freight transportation and logistics analyst at tech market advisory firm, ABI Research.
“In parts of the U.S. where you don’t have a large centralized population, I will be surprised if FedEx /zigman2/quotes/203047719/composite FDX -1.24% and UPS /zigman2/quotes/201245396/composite UPS +0.04% are not partnering or subcontracting with other companies,” that handle package delivery in those areas. However, hiring isn’t likely to begin until early spring of 2021.
Because there is already a shortage of some 80,000 commercial drivers in the U.S., due in part to a disruption in training courses because of coronavirus and drug testing, salary increases and more desirable routes could be leveraged to lure back drivers that have left the industry, she added.
UPS and FedEx have jointly committed to transporting the majority of the vaccines across the country. Both have already hired more than 50,000 workers in September and October in anticipation of heightened demand for their services both for the vaccine and holiday shipments.
UPS isn’t currently looking to fill more positions, Dan McMackin, a spokesman for the company told MarketWatch.
As of Monday afternoon, 55 sites received vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operation officer for Operation Warp Speed said on Monday. A total of 636 locations are expected to receive vaccines by Wednesday.
Coronavirus update: U.S. tops 300,000 COVID-19 deaths on the same day vaccinations begin