Two pharmacy giants are already playing a key role in COVID-19 vaccinations. Walgreens Boots Alliance (NASDAQ:WBA) and CVS Health (NYSE:CVS) are helping vaccinate the residents and staff in long-term care facilities. They should have coronavirus vaccines in their stores to vaccinate the general public within the next few months. In this Motley Fool Live video recorded on Dec. 16, 2020, healthcare and cannabis bureau chief Corinne Cardina and Fool.com writer Keith Speights talk about which one of these pharmacy stocks with a COVID-19 connection is the best pick to buy right now.
Corinne Cardina: Let's talk about pharmacy stocks. Walgreens and CVS Health have both signed a deal with the US government. They are going to be the ones going into long-term care homes and administering the vaccines to residents and staff. Both of these pharmacy stocks have underperformed the S&P 500 for a while. What do you think about these as investments? Do you think that they can turn around? What do you think is the best buy in the pharmacy space, if any?
Keith Speights: Well I'll say that, first, I've been somewhat concerned about pharmacy stocks over the past two or three years because of the potential threat from Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN). Now that's not just a potential threat. It's an actual threat because Amazon has thrown its had into the ring and they are competing in the pharmacy space.
I was especially down, I would say, on Walgreens. Back in 2018, Walgreens CEO stated publicly that he wasn't worried about competition from Amazon because the Internet giant had bought PillPack and PillPack was really small and the Walgreens CEO said, "Yeah. They're so tiny. The pharmacy business is so complicated. I'm not worried about Amazon." I think I wrote an article at the time that he had his head in the sand and I still think he did because you don't overlook a formidable competitor like Amazon.
My concern has been that Walgreens in particular was potentially overlooking that concern or at least playing it down publicly. But I do think both of these companies, Walgreens and CVS Health, do understand that they've got a real threat in Amazon.
But I do think that CVS Health probably is the better pick in that space because they are not just focused on retail pharmacy. CVS also has a big pharmacy benefits management division and they acquired Aetna, one of the largest US health insurers. I think that diversification makes CVS Health an intriguing pick because I think that'll allow them over time to possibly roll out some more innovative comprehensive type healthcare solutions.
I think CVS Health could be the winner and I think they'll be able to hold their own for the most part against Amazon because they also have rolled out home delivery and that type of thing. So I think they are taking the steps that will position them to be able to withstand an onslaught or a potential onslaught from Amazon in the coming years.
Corinne Cardina: Very good insights there.