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Walgreens, HHS to provide free flu shots to uninsured
December 17th, 2010
DEERFIELD, Ill. – Walgreen Co. has partnered with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to offer $10 million of free flu shots in 15 markets nationwide to people who lack health insurance or have insufficient health coverage.
In a conference call with the media on Friday, Walgreens pharmacy services president Kermit Crawford, HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius, assistant secretary of health Dr. Howard Koh and Dr. Dan Jernigan of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the effort is aimed at raising flu vaccination rates — especially in African American and Hispanic population — as the nation enters the busy holiday travel week and nears the peak of the flu season starting in January.
Plans call for Walgreens next week to begin providing vouchers for free flu shots, which HHS will help distribute to up to 350,000 eligible, uninsured and underserved people in markets around the country. The vouchers are good for one flu shot at any of the more than 7,600 Walgreens pharmacies nationwide, including Duane Reade drug stores in metropolitan New York, as well as at the company's over 350 Take Care Clinics.
Walgreens said the flu shot vouchers will be offered starting early next week in the Atlanta; Chicago; Houston; Philadelphia; Bronx, N.Y.; Kansas City, Mo.; Newark, N.J.; and Oakland, Calif., areas. In addition, vouchers will also soon be available through local health agencies in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Miami/Dade County, Fla.; Palm Beach, Fla.; Seattle; Waco, Texas; Washington, D.C.; and various regions in New Hampshire.
"We're proud to partner with HHS to protect as many people as possible during this flu season, particularly those who may not otherwise have access to flu vaccine," Walgreens' Crawford said during the media call. "The flu season traditionally peaks in January and February 70% of the time, so this is an important time for prevention. Through this donation, we hope to achieve higher immunization rates among underserved populations, which can lead to a lower incidence of flu."
Local public health officials and their community partners in the 15 markets, in tandem with the HHS Regional Health Administrators (RHAs), will distribute the flu shot vouchers through a variety of community outreach efforts. Vouchers will be available on a first-come, first-served basis while supplies last.
"Thanks to the new health care law, many people can get their flu vaccination without paying a co-pay or deductible, but there are still more Americans who cannot afford to get vaccinated for the flu," stated Sebelius. "With this generous donation, Walgreens is helping individuals and families who otherwise might be unprotected from the flu this season. We are also troubled by recent data showing disparities among people when it comes to flu vaccination. This donation will help us remove barriers that have prevented some from getting vaccinated."
This year, the flu vaccine protects against strains of the seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus, and the CDC is recommending a flu immunization for everyone over the age of six months.
Walgreens reported that according to CDC data, about 46 million Americans currently have no health insurance. Also, a recent Harvard Medical School study found that 45,000 people in the United States die each year in part because they lack health insurance and don't have access to quality health care.