You'd think there wouldn't be too much concern about pharmacy closures in the midst of a pandemic, but the reality is that no industry is immune to the aptly named retail apocalypse. In fact, for the past number of years, CVS Health (NYSE: CVS), a popular, much-relied upon shopping center mainstay, has seen its stock price creep downward. And other pharmacies may be in for a rude awakening now that Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has decided to encroach on their space with its new Amazon Pharmacy service.
In November, the online retail giant launched a pharmacy program that allows consumers to order medications to be shipped to their doors at discounted prices. Those who use Amazon Pharmacy also get access to actual pharmacists, as well the convenience of refill reminders and other perks.
Still, there's one advantage physical pharmacies have over Amazon right now: Pharmacies can serve as coronavirus vaccine centers. Patients looking to get vaccinated can now schedule appointments at local pharmacies as supply allows.
As it is, those who receive a dose of the Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) or Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) vaccine must return in three to four weeks for a second dose. But there may be a need for doses beyond the initial round the public receives. That could actually be very good news for pharmacies and real estate investors alike.
Will coronavirus vaccines become a yearly event?
Recently, Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) CEO Alex Gorsky stated that people may need to get vaccinated against COVID-19 yearly in the near term, similar to how there's a need for an annual flu shot. The reason largely boils down to the way COVID-19 can potentially mutate. Just as flu vaccines are altered each year to target different strains, so too can coronavirus vaccines be tinkered with to attack variants that emerge. As such, it's easy to see why annual vaccines may become the norm, at least for the next several years.
But while Americans may not relish a yearly jab in the arm, the fact that annual vaccines may become necessary is actually good news for pharmacies. Amazon, which is gearing up to become a major competitor, may do a good job of shipping out books and apparel quickly, but a vaccine isn't something you can click and order online. Rather, people will have to get those vaccines either through their doctors or at pharmacies, like they do for flu shots today.
Once production ramps up on coronavirus vaccines and doses aren't in short supply, pharmacies will offer the benefit of convenience in getting vaccinated. At some point, appointments may not even be necessary. That could, in turn, give pharmacies -- even struggling ones -- a lot more staying power.
The Millionacres bottom line
All of this is potentially great news for real estate investors. Shopping centers commonly rely on pharmacies for consistent rental revenue, and losing them would no doubt constitute a major blow, especially in an age when so many stores are shuttering. Giving the public an added reason to visit pharmacies means they're likely to stick around for the long haul.