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Walgreens hits 20 million COVID-19 vaccinations, eyes possible rise in fall colds

NEW YORK, May 25 (Reuters) - Walgreens Boots Alliance has given more than 20 million COVID-19 vaccinations as of May 24, a top executive said on Tuesday, bringing the company closer to its forecast of giving about 30 million shots this year.

The company, one of the largest U.S. pharmacies, has also done more than 8 million COVID-19 tests, Walgreens senior vice president Rick Gates said on Tuesday during an interview at the Reuters Events: Pharma USA conference.

On March 31, Walgreens raised its outlook for earnings for the year ended Sept. 30 and said it relied on administering 26 million to 34 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in 2021.

As COVID-19 cases in the United States drop to levels not seen since March of 2020 and Americans take off masks and abandon social distancing protocols, Walgreens is watching for a return to a “more normal” cough and cold season this fall, he said.

The use of medicines to treat cough and cold will certainly increase in the fall, but whether demand returns to pre-pandemic levels will depend in part on how many Americans follow the latest government advice that such measures are not needed for fully vaccinated people, Gates said.

“It’s hard to predict at this point in time,” Gates said.

Walgreens sells both over-the-counter treatments and prescription drugs.

In addition to working on its own plans to bring workers back into offices, Gates said Walgreens is talking to 100 different employers about “back to work’ plans. Those discussions include working with Royal Caribbean Cruises and others to get their workforce ready to go on ships and cruise lines, Gates said.

This month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began letting cruises run “trial” cruises and to apply for a sailing certificate. It has not yet allowed them to resume passenger voyages. (Reporting by Caroline Humer; Editing by David Gregorio)

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