CVS to hire thousands of pharmacy techs as it prepares for more Covid-19 cases, rollout of vaccine

CVS Health said Monday it plans to immediately hire 15,000 employees to prepare for an expected rise in Covid-19 and flu cases this fall and winter.

More than 10,000 of those will be full-time and part-time licensed pharmacy technicians who can help dispense medications and administer Covid-19 tests.

Public health officials have warned that Covid-19 cases will likely rise in the months ahead, as more Americans spend time indoors during colder weather. Cases are already growing. Average daily new cases of the coronavirus were up by at least 5 percent on a weekly basis in 39 states on Thursday, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. There were more than 63,600 new cases reported in the U.S. on Thursday, pushing the seven-day average of daily new cases up more than 13 percent compared with a week ago.

The larger workforce could also help CVS prepare for another major phase of the pandemic: The rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine, once it's available. Federal officials will need to give authorization to companies, including CVS, for pharmacy technicians to administer the vaccines under the supervision of an immunization-certified pharmacist.

CVS has advocated for the change, saying pharmacy technicians could help expedite the vaccine's widespread distribution.

The health care company has expanded its staffing and services during the pandemic. It has more than 4,000 Covid-19 drive-thru testing sites and has done nearly 5 million tests. In March, the company announced plans to fill 50,000 jobs for roles from delivery drivers to store associates to keep up with growing demand for over-the-counter medications, early refills of prescriptions and more at its approximately 10,000 pharmacies across the U.S.

Since then, CVS has hired about 76,000 full-time, part-time and temporary employees, company spokesman Joe Goode. It has about 300,000 employees.

Along with recruiting pharmacy technicians in the latest hiring effort, CVS is looking for pharmacists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and distribution center employees. The company said many of the new positions are temporary, but could become permanent.

Pharmacy technicians have less training and make lower pay than pharmacists. They're required to have a high school diploma or GED and sometimes a license, compared with pharmacists, who must attend years of graduate training.

The pandemic has increased demand for the flu shot, a tool that public health officials are advocating to keep Americans healthy and reduce confusion between Covid-19 and the flu's similar symptoms.

CVS expects to administer 18 million flu shots this year — a jump from the 11 million it administered last year, Goode said.