Pharmacies race to add staff ahead of vaccine rollout

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The nation’s pharmacies and drug stores are on a hiring binge thanks to the coming rollout of the first FDA-approved coronavirus vaccines.

Major chains, which laid people off in droves at the start of the pandemic, are suddenly appealing to retired pharmacists to return to work and offering signing bonuses as they seek to ramp up the number of technicians they employ to administer the vaccines, according to a new report.

Walgreens, for example, is seeking to hire up to 9,000 pharmacists to help with vaccinations, according to the Wall Street Journal report.

But the hiring efforts are expected to fall short, especially among smaller chains in more rural areas, the report said.

“There’s not enough people to immunize,” Aaron Wiese, chief health officer at the Midwest grocer Hy-Vee, told The Journal.  “It’s going to be all hands on deck,” he added.

Hyvee hopes to nearly double the number of health-care providers it employs by hiring another 1,000 technicians. But even its own employees are being poached by larger chains. “We’re all going after the same pool,” Wiese told The Journal, complaining that competitors are offering his technicians signing bonuses to jump ship. 

The hiring blitz comes as the industry suffers declining profits due to paltry reimbursements from drug distributors and growing competition from online pharmacy services.

Many grocery-based pharmacies, meanwhile, have closed and declined in total numbers for the first time in years, according to the report.

Meanwhile, some retirees are snubbing the call to return to work — even temporarily as many of these jobs would be.

“I’m not really interested in going back just to give shots,” Michael West, a pharmacist who was laid off with a severance package in July from Walgreens in North Carolina told The Journal. Pharmacies “made these cuts and now they’re begging for people to come back,” he said.



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