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Aug 31 2018

Nothing Says “I Care” Like a Pharmacist-Administered Influenza Vaccination

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) uses the term “high-severity” to describe the 2017-2018 influenza season, which resulted in an abnormally high number of deaths and hospitalizations.  The presence of the dreaded H3N2 strain has been cited as part of the reason for the flu season’s ferocity since  CDC reports last year’s vaccine was effective in just 25 percent of H3N2 cases.  Nevertheless, CDC continues to cite flu vaccination as “the best way to prevent flu and its potentially serious complications.”

Flash forward to now, and while CDC makes no predictions about the severity of the 2018-2019 flu season, or even about the types of flu viruses likely to appear, the agency is proactively spreading the word about the importance of vaccination.  According to CDC guidance, a flu shot is recommended for everyone six months of age and older “as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease.”

Which is where the nation’s pharmacies are playing an increasingly important role. 

According to research by Harris Poll on behalf of CVS Pharmacy, of the 61 percent of Americans who receive an annual flu vaccine, the local pharmacy is the second most likely place to have the shot administered.  Local pharmacies administer almost 25 percent of all flu shots, second only to physician offices, which account for almost 45 percent.

And pharmacy-based immunizations are making a difference.  A study published in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, concluded as many as 6.2 million additional patients have received influenza immunizations over the past five years, thanks to pharmacy availability.  These extra immunizations have saved untold lives and prevented significant numbers of doctor visits and hospitalizations.

Patients increasingly look to their local pharmacy for immunization services because of the convenience and flexibility, and in many cases, the lower cost.  Stopping in for a flu shot can be added to a daily list of errands, and can provide a convenient way to have the entire family immunized at the same time.  And, patients appreciate having access to a familiar pharmacist, to allay concerns or answer any questions.

For the pharmacist, providing the flu vaccine is a logical way to build loyalty among patients, and send a signal that their well-being extends beyond filling prescriptions and selling over-the-counter medications.

There is also the profit potential.  According to a recent article in ChainDrugReview.com, offering immunization services provides an opportunity for pharmacists to generate revenue from additional sales patients will make while in the store.  According to author Robert Dudzinski of WestCorporation, “a 20 percent vaccination rate drives a 6 percent increase in front-end revenue, in addition to the revenue generated from the vaccination itself.”

Since 2010, pharmacist-administered vaccines have been permitted in all 50 states as well as in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, although laws and restrictions vary.  As of 2015, nearly 300,000pharmacists had been certified to administer vaccinations, a clear signal that pharmacists are embracing this new role.

If your pharmacy is interested in adding this important patient service, please contact your state pharmacy board.