This June 25, 2019, file photo shows the sign outside a Walgreens Pharmacy in Pittsburgh. Credit: Gene J. Puskar / AP

Walgreens expects to receive its first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine Dec. 21 and plans to inoculate nursing home residents and workers at more than 30,000 long-term care facilities nationwide.

The company plans to hire about 25,000 people across the U.S., including up to 9,000 pharmacists and other health care workers, to administer the vaccine to long-term care facilities through a partnership with pharmacy service provider PharMerica, the companies said during a panel discussion Friday on the vaccine rollout.

CVS Health and Walmart are also gearing up to administer doses in nursing homes and assisted living centers. CVS Health is preparing 10,000 health care professionals to give the shots, CEO Larry Merlo said Thursday in a CNBC interview.

Walmart is preparing more than 5,000 in-store pharmacies to receive the vaccine, setting up the necessary freezer space and dry ice to meet storage requirements, Walmart’s chief medical officer, Dr. Tom Van Gilder, said in a company blog post Thursday.

On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccinel. A Moderna vaccine approval could follow shortly after.

Hit hard by the pandemic, nursing homes have become a point of concern in many states, including Illinois, during the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

Walgreens’ chief medical officer, Dr. Kevin Ban, said Friday initial doses of the vaccine will be taken to on-site clinics at longterm care facilities staffed with Walgreens pharmacists, the number of which the company is still determining.

In the past, Walgreens has made more than 150,000 off-site visits to give immunization shots, which has helped prepare the drugstore chain to administer a COVID-19 vaccine, said Rina Shah, group vice president of pharmacy operations and services for Walgreens.

“We pretty much raised our hand and said where can we help? We have 27,000 pharmacists across the country. And we knew we could play a role in support of the vaccination,” Shah said.

The pharmacy chain will set aside space at about 1,000 drugstores to keep doses of the vaccine in ultracold freezers and dry ice, she said.

Story by Abdel Jimenez, Chicago Tribune.