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CVS is on a hiring spree for thousands of workers in advance of Covid vaccine rollout in stores

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A view outside a CVS Pharmacy store on July 16, 2020 in Miramar, Florida.
Johnny Louis | Getty Images

Hiring for thousands of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians is underway at CVS Health, as the drugstore chain prepares for the official greenlight from health authorities to begin administering the Covid-19 vaccine in pharmacy locations across the country.

Increased staffing efforts come at a time when the national vaccine rollout has fallen far short of initial goals. Across the country, more than 9.3 million vaccine doses have been administered, out of a total 27.6 million doses distributed, according to Wednesday data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For its part, CVS Health says it is on track to administer Covid vaccines in more than 40,000 long-term care facilities nationwide — including first doses in 8,000 nursing facilities by Jan. 25 and first doses in 31,000 assisted living facilities in the next month — based on a federal partnership agreement.

Ahead of a national rollout to the general public, the company's career page lists openings for roughly 11,300 pharmacy technicians and 1,200 pharmacists across the U.S. To fill those roles, applicants will complete a pre-employment assessment with the platform Modern Hire, which has worked with the pharmacy chain since 2006 to hire store associates, including retail staff and managers. Mike Hudy, chief science officer at Modern Hire, tells CNBC Make It the company helped CVS bring on more than 60,000 new hires at the beginning of the pandemic to serve as an essential business.

Today, Hudy says Modern Hire is helping CVS process upwards of 2,700 candidate assessments per day through the platform, including for pharmacists and pharmacy technician roles. Through its "virtual job tryout," applicants walk though a day-on-the-job simulation of what to expect in the role, like interacting with customers and administering accurate prescription dosages. Employers, meanwhile, can quickly asses the candidate's ability to complete certain tasks and gauge their performance in the pharmacy environment. Hudy says approaching the hiring process in this way, through both a simulation and crunching data around the applicant's ability to complete tasks, can close the time to hire from several weeks to a matter of days.

CVS is offering full- and part-time pharmacy technician roles, which serve as the first point of contact for customers and are expected to work compassionately, quickly and safely to protect patient privacy and security. The role can be physically demanding: Expect to be standing or walking for extended periods of time, complete repetitive administrative tasks that require acute attention to detail, work with small instruments, communicate effectively and concentrate on a task for significant periods of time. Applicants must be at least 16 years old, licensed based on their state's requirements and have a high school diploma or equivalent. The median annual pay for pharmacy technicians is $33,950 a year, according to the Labor Department.

Staff pharmacists support the pharmacy manager and lead technician support staff in daily operations, including patient safety, pharmacy professional practice, quality assurance, customer service, inventory management and workflow management. Pharmacists generally earn a doctorate of pharmacy degree and must have an active license in the state where they work. Pharmacists earned a median $128,090 in 2019, per the Labor Department.

Preparing to administer 20 to 25 million shots per month

In early December, CVS Health broadened its recruitment efforts by sending a mass email to customers that it was "urgently hiring thousands of qualified pharmacists, nurses and pharmacy technicians to help administer Covid-19 vaccines when available to pharmacies," Forbes reports. Pharmacies including CVS Health, Walgreens and smaller retail chains and grocers are offering signing bonuses and reaching out to recently laid-off and retired pharmacists and health-care workers to meet the forthcoming wave of vaccine needs, The Wall Street Journal reports.

In a request for comment about the company's hiring efforts, a spokesperson for CVS Health, which employs 34,000 pharmacists and 65,000 technicians, pointed to the company exceeding its hiring goal announced in October to fill 15,000 new, part-time and temporary pharmacists and pharmacist technicians to respond to customer needs during the fall and winter, when cases of Covid-19 and the flu were expected to increase.

As for the weeks and months ahead, "we have the appropriate staff in place to support our vaccine efforts, and will continue to hire as appropriate as has been the case since the start of the pandemic," the spokesperson said.

In addition to ongoing efforts with long-term care facilities, CVS said in a Jan. 6 statement that Covid vaccines will eventually be available at all CVS Pharmacy locations throughout the country, subject to availability and prioritization of populations as determined by each state. While no vaccines are currently available at CVS Pharmacy locations, "the company is in discussions with several states to make a limited number of doses available in the coming weeks in advance of the broader rollout" in retail locations, per the statement.

When vaccines become available to the general public, the company says it has the capacity to administer 20 to 25 million shots per month across nearly 10,000 pharmacy locations.

At that time, vaccines will be administered by appointment only, which can be made at CVS.com, through the CVS Pharmacy app or at a dedicated 800 number for those who don't have online access.

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