Friday Flu Shot: Pharmacy Role in Vaccinations
Oct 05, 2012

With flu season upon us, there is no denying that the average person is probably bombarded with suggestions to get a flu shot.  While there are the usual messages seen on posters in  hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices, there is also a great deal of signage being generated by pharmacies who, in many states, are authorized to administer certain vaccines.  Big, bold banners can often be read from the highway and large sidewalk tents placed at the store entrances are hard to avoid.  And if your town is anything like mine, there’s a pharmacy (and sometimes more than one) located at most major intersections.
While it appears that pharmacies are actively advertising for people to get vaccinated, there will always be those that criticize this practice as a way for pharmacies to make more money.  Whatever their motives, this post is intended to spark a discussion about both the pros and cons of what is becoming a more common practice.
If pharmacies are providing a health service that is more convenient for people and results in more people getting vaccinated, I see that as a benefit.  Especially since I’ve heard many parents complain that one of the reasons that they delay, forget or neglect, to get themselves or their children immunized, is because they lack the time.
Let’s face it.  A trip to the doctor’s office is not just time-consuming, it may also be difficult to schedule or coordinate.
And then there are other obstacles to consider.  Like the doctor’s office not receiving their vaccines early in the season.  Or the doctor running out of vaccines before the patient was scheduled to be seen.  Or the requirement, in some practices, to make a scheduled appointment as opposed to just being able to walk in.  There are even instances where parents bring their children to get vaccinated, but who have to make a separate appointment with their own doctor, since the pediatrician won’t administer the vaccine to an adult.
Convenience is certainly a consideration in getting vaccinated at a pharmacy, as a report released yesterday from Walgreens demonstrates.  It revealed that nearly one-third of flu shots at Walgreens and Take Care Clinics were administered during evenings, weekends and holidays. 
However, the report also gave me some other thoughts to consider. Are pharmacies who offer immunizations becoming more vested in public health and consumer health attitudes?
The fact that Walgreens has been conducting their own research seems rather significant.  And the information they share in their report suggested that there is an occasional disconnect between consumer perception and consumer behavior when it comes to immunizations.
For instance, their results found that 71% of the adults surveyed feel being up-to-date on immunizations is very important to maintaining good health and that an overwhelming majority of adults surveyed (89%) believe that vaccinations help protect people from viruses and preventable diseases.
That’s good news, right?  Well, yes.  But unfortunately here’s the disconnect.  More than 40% of people surveyed don’t know which immunizations they may need or even when they last received certain routinely recommended vaccines.
While 60% of people admitted that the biggest motivator in considering vaccines (such as  Tdap to help protect against whooping cough) is the presence of an outbreak in their community, only 31% of respondents were aware of the status of reported cases or outbreaks in their area.
It is interesting to note that in response to their findings, Walgreens and their Take Care Clinics have introduced an immunizations assessment this season, which is free with every flu shot.
The idea?  To help ensure that people are getting the health care information and services they need. 
So what can be wrong with that?
I ask because while I have presented what seem to be some of the benefits of pharmacies providing immunizations, I’m interested in hearing some of the cons, if there are any.
My only thought is that if I had a child with severe allergies or a tendency to have a reaction, than I would probably prefer that the child’s regular health care provider administer their vaccine and be available to observe them afterwards.
But what other reasons may people have in avoiding the pharmacy for immunizations?
And do you believe that the convenience of getting a flu shot at the local pharmacy helps improve seasonal influenza vaccination uptake? 

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