This week's availability of Covid-19 vaccines at major national pharmacies will begin to change the course of the epidemic across the US. As one of the government's national pharmaceutical partners of the Covid-19 vaccine, CVS Health is poised to continue its role in a united response to the epidemic. And it is our job - and our goal - to ensure that policies are distributed to those who need them most.

We are committed to narrowing the gap in health disparities that affect communities of color. As we did when we set up our Covid testing centers last year, we will continue to affect communities that were historically and culturally disadvantaged, many of whom have been severely affected by serious illnesses, including Covid-19.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that Black, Latinx, and Native American Covid-19 patients are hospitalized about four times more than the average white patient and are two or three times more likely to die from the disease. When identifying stores and other Covid testing sites last year, we carefully selected locations to promote distribution and equity.

Today, more than half of our survey sites serve communities in dire need of support as determined by the CDC's Social Vulnerability Index. Now, as we begin to vaccinate stores in 11 provinces we will continue to make equally targeted decisions about where to find vaccines. We hope to be able to make a significant difference in more and more regions as the increase in the provision of vaccines allows us to expand.

In fact, our growing team of more than 90,000 pharmacists and other trained health professionals are able to vaccinate 20 to 25 million injections per month at our approximately 10,000 retail outlets once the diagnosis is made. We have the experience, as we have already managed approximately 20 million flu cases this season, as well as more than 3.2 million Covid-19 vaccines for residents and staff of more than 40,000 long-term care facilities.

We have learned a lot from setting up Covid testing centers, so as we roll out a vaccine, we can quickly help more needy communities. We also continue to integrate data analytics into action in order to gain insight into our customers, their needs, and the barriers to care they face. We see challenges in vaccinating people who have not kept working.

According to a recent CVS Health white paper, research data shows that doubts about getting vaccinated are growing in black and Latinx communities. In fact, 51% of Latinx respondents are concerned that the vaccine may have side effects and 35% of blacks report that they do not plan to receive the vaccine.

That is why we are leading targeted outreach campaigns, focusing on local education. We also work with trusted community leaders to help overcome many of these barriers, some of which are based on the historical experience of injustice. Working to address anxiety, dispel myths, and improve access to the latter can help increase the vulnerability of the most vulnerable among us.

We are approaching a vaccination effort with the same commitment we have made to address the inequalities faced by Black people and other deprived communities through our five-year budget, $ 600 million to improve working, social, and community policies. Covid-19 has been more devastating to some communities than others, and as the vaccine grows, our response will continue to look at these differences.

We are proud to be part of the solution to the great public health challenge of our time. We are committed to doing everything possible to help ensure that everyone who wants to be vaccinated can be vaccinated.