USA – This week, Walgreens, CVS, and other Chicago-area pharmacies and retailers will begin distributing free N95 masks as part of a Biden administration initiative to combat an increase in COVID-19 cases linked to the omicron variant, as reported by NBC Chicago.

A total of 400 million masks from the Strategic National Stockpile will be distributed to pharmacies and community health centers participating in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program across the country.

Shipments are set to begin this week, and the administration expects the program to be fully operational by early February, according to a White House official.

One of the program’s participants, Deerfield-based Walgreens, has stated that it will make masks of varying sizes available to the public “in the near future,” but has not specified a specific date.

We are pleased to partner with the administration to make N95 masks in varying sizes available free of charge at select Walgreens locations nationwide while supplies last,” a company spokesperson said. “We know masks are an effective way to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Similarly, CVS said it will begin offering free N95 masks at pharmacy locations in the coming weeks.

A CVS spokesperson said in a statement, in part “…Our work to distribute high-quality masks as part of this program is an extension of our commitment to providing equitable access to the tools necessary to combat COVID-19, including testing, vaccines, and authorized therapies.”

According to a statement released by Walmart, masks will be available at the front of select Walmart and Sam’s Club stores beginning late this week.

From the beginning of the pandemic, we have worked to meet the needs of our communities and help keep them safe and healthy by setting-up COVID testing sites, administering tens of millions of vaccines and boosters, and dispensing authorized COVID-19 oral antiviral medications,” the statement read, in part.

We are proud to continue to serve our customers, members and associates now through N95 mask distribution as part of the US Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.”

Federal officials have stated that those who pick up masks will be limited to three per person.

Last week, the CDC revised its mask recommendations, recommending that residents wear properly fitted N95 and KN95 masks, as those coverings have been shown to be more effective at protecting individuals from the omicron variant.

According to officials, cloth masks can still be worn.

Liked this article? Sign up to receive our regular email newsletters, focused on Africa and World’s healthcare industry, directly into your inbox. SUBSCRIBE HERE