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APhA steers consumers to drug stores for flu shots
September 20th, 2011
WASHINGTON – The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) has begun its annual campaign to alert consumers that their local retail drug store provides a convenient place to get their flu shot this season.
APhA said Tuesday that more than 150,000 U.S. pharmacists have been trained in the practice of immunization administration, and pharmacists are authorized to give flu vaccinations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
What's more, the association noted that consumers can speak with their pharmacist about the options for immunizations and other health care services available at their local pharmacy.
APhA has posted an online video titled "How Your Pharmacist Can Help You Stay Flu-Free." (click on image to view video)
An estimated 20% of the seasonal flu vaccines given to adults during the 2010-11 flu season were administered by pharmacists, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data reported by APhA.
"APhA encourages consumers to be proactive and talk to their pharmacist about their vaccination needs and the immunization process at the pharmacy," APhA chief executive officer and executive vice president Thomas Menighan said in a statement. "A pharmacist goes through six years or more of school, depending on his/her area of specialization. In addition to their specialized training as medication experts, pharmacists can go through a formal training program to gain the skill set and knowledge to administer immunizations. This formal training helps ensure reliable and consistent immunization care for patients. "
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population is infected with influenza every year, and over the past 31 years, annual influenza-related deaths have ranged from 3,000 to 49,000. Consistent with the recommendations by
In line with the CDC's recommendation, APhA advises that all people age 6 months and older be vaccinated for influenza each year. About 5% to 20% of the U.S. population is infected with the flu annually, according to the CDC.
"The local pharmacy is a convenient and easily accessible place to get your flu shot," stated Vincent Hartzell, owner and director of patient care services at Hartzell's Pharmacy in Catasauqua, Pa. "Your pharmacist is readily available to discuss vaccines and how they can help keep your family healthy. Many pharmacies have year-round walk-in hours and immunization clinics during the peak season. In most cases, a patient can get vaccinated in the time it takes to wait for their prescriptions."
To answer consumers' questions about getting inoculated for flu at a pharmacy, APhA has set up a page on its website, pharmacist.com/flushot, and has posted an online video titled "How Your Pharmacist Can Help You Stay Flu-Free."
APhA is also pointing out to consumers that in many states, pharmacists can administer other important immunizations, such as pneumococcal (pneumonia), meningococcal (meningitis), hepatitis B, human papillomavirus (HPV), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) and Zoster (shingles).
The APhA campaign comes in the wake of a somewhat disappointing flu shot business for retail pharmacies last flu season, according to a Wall Street Journal report on Tuesday. The article noted how chain drug stores, supermarket pharmacies and mass merchandisers are now providing flu vaccinations on a walk-in basis, rather than only by appointment or in clinics, and are offering incentives such as discounted shots, coupon books and free groceries to customers who get immunized in order to spur flu shot volume.
Last flu season, an estimated 49% of children and nearly 41% of adults were immunized for influenza, said Dr. Carolyn Bridges, associate director for adult immunization in the Immunization Services Division of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, in a telebriefing last month on flu vaccination. She said the center estimates that manufacturers will produce 166 million flu vaccines this year, up from 157 million doses last year.
"I think there was some concern last year about 'flu fatigue,' " Bridges said in the briefing, referring to the decline in flu vaccination activity the season after the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. "However, we saw that vaccination rates stayed high last year. And we anticipate the same thing this year. Vaccination coverage for last year for children was 49%, and for all adults 18 and older was 41%. So I think that was actually quite tremendous in the seasonal year that followed a pandemic year, a year where we had tremendous amounts of coverage about influenza, and to have the seasonal year following it had essentially seasonal increases in coverage, I think it's actually quite remarkable."
Still, a survey commissioned by food and drug retailer Safeway found that consumers do need some prodding to get immunized for flu. The Safeway Seasonal Wellness Survey, results of which were released earlier this month, showed that 60% of Americans think flu shot are effective in preventing the flu, but just 51% actually plan to get a flu shot this season. About a quarter of respondents cited convenience and cost as the factors that might prevent them from getting a flu shot this year, while 39% said it's more important to get a flu vaccine now than it was five years ago.
*Editor's Note: Article updated on Sept. 22 with links to APhA flu shot website and video.