Pharmacy becomes go-to for flu shots

Vaccinations represent an emerging category within retail pharmacy for one simple reason: The majority of Americans prefer visiting their local pharmacy to get their inoculations, as opposed to visiting the doctor’s office, according to the PrescribeWellness 2017 Vaccination and Preventive Care Survey.

Already, retail pharmacy is the No. 2 destination for adults in search of their annual flu shot, with 24.3% of adults asking their pharmacists for a flu shot, compared with 37.4% who still ask their doctors, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And it’s not just flu shots. Retail pharmacy is fast becoming a go-to for inoculations ranging from shingles to travel vaccines because it’s convenient.

Of the 62% of PrescribeWellness survey respondents who chose the pharmacy over visiting a doctor’s office, as many as 26% stated their pharmacy is their “one-stop shop” for many health-and-wellness needs. One-in-four respondents reported their local pharmacy is easier to get to than the doctor’s office, and 1-in-5 suggested their local pharmacy is significantly more convenient compared with the doctor’s office, especially when they have the kids with them.

Pharmacy has answered the call. Roughly 68% of community pharmacies offer immunization services, according to the “2016 National Community Pharmacy Association Digest.” And approximately 300,000 pharmacists nationwide currently are trained to give immunizations, according to the American Pharmacists Association.

Compared with data from the 2014 National Health Interview Survey, the 2015 survey revealed increases in vaccination coverage for adults, with influenza vaccines increasing from 43.2% to 44.8%, pneumococcal vaccine from 20.2% to 23%, Tdap vaccine from 20% to 23.1% and hepatitis B vaccine from 60.6% to 64.7%. Similarly, herpes zoster vaccine among adults older than 60 years of age increased from 27.9% to 30.6%. The CDC reported that the herpes zoster vaccination coverage in 2015 met the Healthy People 2020 target of 30%.

“Coverage for all vaccines for adults remained low, but modest gains occurred in vaccination coverage,” the CDC noted. “Although having health insurance coverage and a usual place for health care were associated with higher vaccination coverage, these factors alone were not associated with optimal adult vaccination coverage.”

Awareness is on the rise, however. For example, the CDC noted that 1-in-3 people are expected to develop shingles. As a result, 89% of those surveyed by PrescribeWellness thought that it was important to take shingles immunization seriously.

The future of vaccinations may be OTC
Earlier this year, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology tested a new, pain-free flu vaccine patch that could one day be self-administered, suggesting there may one day be an OTC “flu shot.” “Having the option of a flu vaccine that can be easily and painlessly self-administered could increase coverage and protection by this important vaccine,” noted Nadine Rouphael, associate professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and principal investigator of the clinical trial.

Using microneedle patch technology under development at Micron Biomedical, a Phase 1 clinical trial found that vaccination by a microneedle patch was as safe and at least as immunogenic as vaccination with standard needle and syringe.

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