The U.S. will increase the number of vaccines it ships to states and territories each week and also begin shipping a limited amount directly to local pharmacies, the White House COVID Response Coordinator Jeff Zients announced Tuesday.
Zients said the U.S. will increase the number of doses allocated to states by five percent, guaranteeing 10.5 million shots shipped out weekly over the next three weeks, with the goal of increasing that number in the future.
"We are delivering on our commitment to provide states with three weeks-forward visibility into supply," Zients said.
The administration will also begin shipping vaccines directly to local pharmacies across the country, a job that the Trump administration had left to states.
The new shipments will start with one million doses sent to 6,500 pharmacy locations next week, and Zients said the U.S. will work to scale that number in the coming weeks.
"This will provide more sites for people to get vaccinated in their communities, and it’s an important component to delivering vaccines equitably," Zients said.
The partnership includes retail companies like CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and Costco, though not all companies will receive doses in the first phase.
According to the CDC, the U.S. has distributed nearly 50 million vaccine doses, and 32.2 million shots have been administered. As of last week, the Biden administration had already increased vaccine distribution by about 16 percent, according to officials.
On Tuesday, Zients also announced a new initiative with FEMA to reimburse states for their coronavirus-related spending dating back to the beginning of the pandemic, an effort he estimated would cost $3 to $5 billion.
The reimbursement would cover money spent on things like masks, gloves and the activation of the National Guard.
"States will be fully repaid … and they can use the additional resources for vaccination efforts and emergency supplies moving forward," Zients said.
In his first week, Biden had already directed FEMA to begin setting up vaccination centers across the country, with the goal of 100 in the first month. One such federally-supported site opened at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Nevada on Monday, though it’s meant for people who need their second dose only.
Zients predicted Tuesday that FEMA would exceed the president’s goal of 100 vaccination centers by the end of the month, and he said the federal government was also using mobile vaccination sites to reach especially vulnerable communities.