The following is a transcript of an interview with Rite Aid CEO Heyward Donigan that aired Sunday, February 14, 2021, on "Face the Nation."
MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to go now to the president and CEO of pharmacy chain Rite Aid, that's Hayward Donigan. She joins us from Tampa, Florida, this morning. Good morning to you.
RITE AID CEO HEYWARD DONIGAN: Good morning, how are you?
MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm well. As of this week, your stores and other pharmacy chains are now receiving directly from the federal government doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. According to your press release, you'll get 100 doses initially for stores in California, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Philly, and New York City. What difference does it make to get the vaccine directly?
DONIGAN: Well, it's long awaited. We're super excited to be getting these doses directly so that we just have the ability to protect more people in a meaningful way. So we have been doing over 140,000 shots so far with state governments and local municipalities. So, we were in the whole process much earlier than we ever expected, even with the states. But it's just exciting to be picked in these states as one of two pharmacies that will be distributing the federally allocated doses.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So with those newly allocated doses, I mean, how many vaccinations do you think you'll be able to conduct each week? How many did you do this week for example?
DONIGAN: So we're doing- we- we got 116,000 doses last week. And so those are already in process. We are administering, as you said, 100 doses per store per week. There's 1,160 stores and we anticipate and are hopeful that that volume will go up. So we're doing, you know, essentially 20 shots a day per store.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So can you explain what the registration system will look like? Because I'm sure you know, I know plenty of people, particularly older people, who really struggle trying to figure out which website to go to at the state, at the county level, which store to go to. How are you going to streamline that part of the process?
DONIGAN: Well, at this point, it's all still being handled by the state and local jurisdictions, and if you go to riteaid.com/covid-19 and then you go into the vaccine eligibility section, we have a daily update by state- by jurisdiction that shows you exactly which link to click on to register for a vaccine and- and updates you on the status of Rite Aid's participation. We do not currently schedule in the store, so you have to go through the state or local jurisdictions websites and that's who will point you to. And then you can pick a Rite Aid or you can pick a Wal-Mart or you can pick up Publix or whoever's been named and allocated doses to register with. And of course, the supply continues to be not able to meet up the demand. So we still have very long waiting lists, but we're hoping that in the April, May timeframe, when you hear about all of these new doses becoming available, at some point we're hoping that you can go directly to us and register on our scheduling system. But for now, you need to go through that link. And- and we feel as if this is a great source of information for people who are very confused.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you said back in January- you said it yourself at an investor conference, that all of this is pretty confusing because of how states are breaking this down. How would you advise the Biden administration to- to change it? Should the private sector be taking more of a role in every part of this?
DONIGAN: I think the private sector is more experienced with these scheduling tools and registration tools, which are very much stressed right now. And so, you know, I always think that the private sector who build these tools and- and scale these tools in the Cloud from a technology perspective would be the best people to help in this regard, as well as with the call centers. And I know that the governors are doing a wonderful job as best they can. For example, the- the governor of New Jersey putting their own call centers together and trying to do as much of this as they can. But the demand is so high that I do think the private sector can play a role here. We ourselves have built our own scheduling tool.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, who leads the Health Equity Task Force for the Biden White House, has talked about trying to get vaccines into socially vulnerable areas. On this program, back in November, CVS's CEO said they could put mobile trucks and vans into underserved communities. Do you have plans to do things like that?
DONIGAN: We can really do anything, and we are prepared to do anything and everything. We are staffing clinics today. I think the federal government has done a really good job, in the prior administration and the current administration, with the testing sites really focusing on socially vulnerable areas and making sure that we provide as much coverage there as we can. They're doing the same thing right now in terms of making sure that where they pick our stores, for example, is- is ensuring adequate coverage for both geography and socially vulnerable communities. So there's an ongoing dialogue on- daily about this. And as we roll both testing and vaccines out there, very focused, as are we, on making sure that we cover those communities.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Have you seen a drop off in testing? Because the COVID Tracking Project says there's been a 20% drop in testing since President Biden was inaugurated.
DONIGAN: There has been. Our assumption is that it's because the holidays are over and we are assuming that there might be a pick up after the Super Bowl, but right now we think it's just a- people are a bit weary. They're probably taking a little break after Christmas and Thanksgiving or the holidays. And so we also have seen those tests drop off, but we have just rolled out to 1,200 stores free testing because we anticipate that testing will continue to be a very important tool in the arsenal of Americans.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Thank you very much for your time today.
DONIGAN: Thank you.