PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Drugstore giants CVS Health and Walgreens have been crucial partners to the federal government in distributing vaccines nationwide, including in Rhode Island.
But as eligibility opened up to all adults this week, more people discovered that the two companies make very different demands of customers if they want to find out whether a local drugstore has any appointments available.
At CVS.com, consumers can click “Schedule a COVID-19 vaccine,” then choose their state and immediately see whether any appointments are available at local CVS stores — before providing any personal information.
After clicking “Schedule an appointment now,” a CVS customer can continue through the process without creating a CVS.com account. While a phone number is required, providing an email address as part of the registration process is optional rather than mandatory.
“We strive to make the digital scheduling process as seamless as possible, giving patients clear and relevant information with as little friction as possible when securing an appointment,” Matt Blanchette, a spokesperson for Woonsocket-based CVS, told 12 News.
“This includes providing updated eligibility requirements, real-time access to available appointments without the need to register for an account, and this week, the added ability of same-day scheduling, including appointments as soon as one hour from time of scheduling,” he said.
The sign-up system on Walgreens.com is not so simple.
The company’s homepage features a prominent “Schedule vaccine” button. After clicking that and another button on a second page, a consumer is asked for his or her zip code to search vaccine eligibility, and is then asked to click a “See if you’re eligible” button.
At that point, however, the process grinds to a halt. An individual is asked to either type in an existing Walgreens.com username and password or create a new account with the company, then provide various personal information — all before seeing whether any nearby appointments are even available.
The process could have a business upside for Walgreens, helping the Illinois-based company obtain valuable consumer data from people who are seeking to get vaccinated.
Asked how many new Walgreens.com accounts have been created so far by individuals trying to access the company’s vaccination portal, Walgreens spokesperson Campbell O’Connor told 12 News: “We can’t share the data you requested.”
However, he emphasized that consumers who want to get a shot from the company can avoid creating a Walgreens.com account by signing up for an appointment at a local pharmacy or calling 1-800-Walgreens.
“When scheduling an appointment through Walgreens.com/ScheduleVaccine, people are prompted to create a Walgreens account for the purposes of identity verification, fulfillment of data and reporting requirements, and to help create a safer and more streamlined in-store appointment experience,” O’Connor wrote in an email.
“Registering a vaccination appointment through a Walgreens account before arriving at the store location helps to reduce lines and in-store wait times that can be a byproduct of collecting this information at the pharmacy counter,” he continued.
Ted Nesi (email@example.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram