Pharmacies look to leverage flu shots

Alina Pastoriza Garcia, ARNP-NP-C, administers a flu vaccination to Russell Waddey at the CVS/pharmacy's MinuteClinic on December 4, 2012 in Miami, Fla.

It's flu season. And by all accounts it's shaping up to be a bad one. And that means all those people who've been waiting to roll up their sleeves and get a flu shot are gonna get it now.

It also means the drug store industry may get the vaccine payoff it's been waiting for. Today, one in five adults gets their flu shot from a pharmacy. That’s why drug store chains are trying to make it as easy as possible to get a vaccine.

“We have about 1,700 24-hour stores,” says Jim Cohn a spokesman for Walgreens, the nation’s largest pharmacy chain.

He says just three years ago half of all the chain’s pharmacists were even trained to administer the vaccines. “We’re now at a point where virtually all of our 27,000 pharmacists can provide flu shots and a broad range of immunizations.”

But Matthew Coffina, an analyst with Morningstar, says all those pharmacists giving all those shots doesn’t boost the bottom line as much as you’d think.

“Even though it’s administering over five million vaccines, it’s probably a couple hundred million dollars, versus total revenue of Walgreens of $74 billion or so,” he says.

Coffina says the real value for these retailers is that it’s a foot in the door to becoming so much more than some sleepy pill counter.

“You know maybe somebody comes in for a flu shot initially, but they also find out that their kid can get a sports physical, and perhaps down the road Walgreens and CVS will use their clinics to become more involved in disease management,” he says.

Drexel public health policy professor Robert Field says he’s been watching drug stores become a more significant player in health care. And he thinks that’s going to help everyone keep costs down.

“First, it’s going to improve access to the system. Secondly you are going to have lower cost providers offering basic services that you don’t really need a physician for,” he says.

And if you need toothpaste -- it’s just an aisle away.

About the author

Dan Gorenstein is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Health Desk. You can follow him on Twitter @dmgorenstein.
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"And if you need toothpaste -- it’s just an aisle away."

True for cigarettes, too. Ironic, is it not?

I also don't get any flu shots or as a matter of fact any vaccinations for well over 40 years. I travel overseas on a regular basis. I may at times get a little Delhi belly from the drinking water.
I keep my natural immunity strong by what I eat. I first of all avoid white sugar, white flour and all dairy products. These are great culture mediums for growing a wide range of bacterium, etc.
I don't smoke and have an occasional beer.
I exercise regularly, get adequate sleep and get my daily sunshine when possible.
For most people, they are ignorant of how their body functions and how to care for it.
I rely on the foods I consume and not some magic potion artificially created by some chemist in a lab.
If Nature intended humans to exist on drugs, they would be readily available for our use.
Our bodies are designed to function on clean water and mainly raw fresh foodstuffs.
For those of you stuffed into the mega cities of the world and have to rely on all your foods being shipped in, well that's your choice.

Its your choice folks, taking drugs is the easy way out. Taking care of yourself is a bit harder, but worth it.

I generally make it a point not to comment on other people's comments but that "If Nature intended" remark just begs a reply.

Using that leap of non sequitur logic, if Nature intended we get heart transplants, we would have two (or more) of them or even re-grow damaged ones. Maybe "Nature intended" us to die of malaria, cancer, or a bad heart but if given the option, my vote goes for vaccinations and modern medicine as needed.

I don’t get flu shots. But for the people who do get them, what safe guards are being provided by the pharmacy? Are HIPPA laws being followed when this treatment is being rendered? Is this fact that you received a flu shot being sent to your doctor as an update? Don’t get me wrong, I love conveniences, but I would prefer my pharmacist counting out my pills in lieu of sticking me with a needle. I wonder if the pharmacist gives the patient a smiley face sticker after the shot...hmmm

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