For pharmacists who provide immunizations, signs of progress and plenty of opportunity

Good, but it could be better.

I’m talking about the results of a nationwide survey of Americans who were vaccinated against influenza for the 2012-2013 flu season. Based on an online poll of nearly 1,100 adults in mid-January, researchers for Ipsos Public Affairs found a solid majority of Americans still rely on their family physician for their flu shots, but that retail pharmacies and walk-in clinics are making significant progress in their campaign to shift the center of gravity for immunizations away from the doctor’s office.

Drug Store News senior editor Michael Johnsen reports that about 20% of respondents received this year’s inoculation at a retail pharmacy, while another 12.6% were vaccinated at a walk-in clinic. That means that as of Jan. 15, as many as 18.5 million Americans had received their flu shot from a community pharmacist during the current flu season, with another 11.7 million relying on a nurse practitioner or other retail or urgent-care clinician.

It’s good news for chain and independent pharmacy, and affirms the success retail pharmacists have had in expanding their patient-care efforts and convincing patients that there’s a more convenient and cheaper alternative for basic health services like immunizations. But the Ipsos survey results also mean that roughly two of every three Americans are still going to a physician’s office or other professional site for something as universally available and accessible as a flu shot.

That suggests opportunity. Tens of thousands of chain and independent pharmacists have become certified to provide immunizations, not only for influenza but for other diseases, and tens of millions of patients are still bypassing their local drug store, supermarket or discount store pharmacy so that they or their health plans can spend more to get immunized at a doctor’s office.

The survey pointed up another area of potential for retail pharmacies and clinics as well. Pollsters found that only about 40% of Americans had been vaccinated as of Jan. 15, with another 5% of respondents reported to be still considering getting a flu shot this year – despite the fact that the flu epidemic continues to rage in the western U.S.

What’s more, only one in three of those surveyed seemed concerned about catching the flu, and roughly the same number said they were afraid that getting the vaccine increased their chances of getting the flu. Roughly one in six respondents told researchers the vaccines aren’t safe.

Who better to counter those fears than the pharmacist or clinician. Your comments, as always, are welcome.

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