Walmart arms itself with vaccines

A school nurse preapres a vaccine against whooping cough. Walmart will soon begin offering a slew of shots aimed at boosting its health care business.

Tess Vigeland: Quick, name 10 different vaccines. Flu, Hepatitis, measles, uh... yeah.

Well as of Monday, it may get easier to complete the list. That's when Walmart begins offering 10 different vaccines in nearly 3,000 stores. It's all part of a plan to turn shoppers into pin cushions and inject more profits into the company's burgeoning health care business.

Dan Gorenstein of New Hampshire Public Radio reports.


Dan Gorenstein: Walmart will have shots for young people; whopping cough, chicken pox. They'll have shots for older people: shingles.

Joel Hay: Certainly people are already going to Walmart to buy all kinds of things.

Joel Hay is a health care economist at Univerity of Southern California.

Hay: So if they already are going to be there, it'll add one more convenient aspect to be able to get vaccines and perhaps other types of health care services delivered through Walmart.

Chains like Walmart, CVS and Walgreens started getting into the health care services a decade ago. And it's worked out fairly well. Walmart's health business, including over-the-counter drugs, brought in 11 percent of the company's sales last year.

Temple University pharmacy professor Albert Wertheimer believes Walmart will follow its competitors and keep expanding.

Albert Wertheimer: They'll have dental offices and you can make an appointment and get your routine teeth cleaning. And next will be a physician or physician's assistant. Walgreen's has that. And CVS.

Walmart says it will offer vaccines at a deep discount. And that, says Lori Uscher-Pines, a researcher with Rand, will probably be enough to push more people to roll up their sleeves, especially as health care reform kicks in and primary care offices get overloaded.

Lori Uscher-Pines: There's concerns that that system will be further strained and this might be an ideal way to get a vaccination.

But it's not even Labor Day. There's still a couple months before flu season begins.

I'm Dan Gorenstein for Marketplace.

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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