Lynch: COVID vaccines bringing new customers to CVS stores

CVS Health released its first-quarter earnings report Tuesday. (Mike Mozart/CC BY 2.0)

As people seek out vaccines for COVID-19 at drug stores and pharmacies, it's bringing new customers into CVS' retail locations, executives said Tuesday.

CVS has administered 17 million vaccines for COVID-19 through April, with a third of shots going to people in underrepresented communities, CVS CEO Karen Lynch told investors on the company's first-quarter earnings call.

As vaccine programs have opened up more broadly, the healthcare giant is offering vaccinations at more than 8,300 locations across 49 states. She said that the company's second dose compliance is over 90%.

In addition, CVS has administered more than 23 million tests for COVID-19 to date, Lynch said.

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"We are successfully driving health services engagement among customers who are new to CVS Health through COVID testing and vaccines," Lynch said. "This has helped somewhat offset the impact of a weak flu, cough and cold season."

"Although early, we have seen improvement in April, as vaccinated customers are more actively shopping in CVS locations as part of a nationwide trend," she said.

Lynch said that 9% of customers who were new to CVS for COVID-19 testing later filled a prescription at one of its pharmacies. Enrollment in its CarePass membership program is also on the rise, reaching 4.5 million people for an increase of 18% over 2020, she said.

CVS is raising its guidance for the year after posting $2.2 billion in profit for the first quarter.

The healthcare giant released its first-quarter earnings report Tuesday morning. Profits in the first quarter of 2021 were up from $2 billion in the prior-year quarter, the report shows. The results beat Wall Street's expectations, according to analysts at Zacks Investment Research.

Revenues were also up for the quarter, according to the report, growing by $2.3 billion to reach $69.1 billion. CVS also beat Zacks' predictions on revenue.

“We delivered strong first-quarter results and improved our outlook for the year,” Lynch said in a statement. “We continue to execute on our strategy while simultaneously managing through a pandemic, helping the country on the road to recovery. Our unmatched assets and strength of our brand are driving results as we work toward improving care delivery and driving growth.”

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CVS is boosting its earnings outlook to between $7.56 and $7.68 per share and expects full-year cash flow from operations of between $12 billion and $12.5 billion.

CVS' Aetna subsidiary boasted 23.6 million members in the first quarter, an increase of 214,000 compared to the end of 2020. The company said this reflects growth in its government plans but is partially offset by some declines in commercial membership.

Revenues at Aetna were up by $1.3 billion compared to the first quarter of 2020, reaching $20.5 billion.

CVS Caremark's revenues were up by a similar margin, growing to $36.3 billion in the first quarter of 2021 compared to $34.98 billion in the prior-year quarter. The number of claims processed by the pharmacy benefit manager decreased 1% on a 30-day equivalent basis, CVS said, largely driven by a weaker cough, cold and flu season as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company's retail segment also saw higher revenue in the quarter, according to the report. It grew by $525 million to reach $23.3 billion.

CVS said prescription fills were on par on a 30-day equivalent basis compared to the first quarter of 2020, with the impacts of the flu season largely offsetting higher demand for COVID-19 vaccinations and the continued adoption of patient care programs.