NEW YORK The announcement that Walgreens eclipsed the 1 millionth shot mark on Sept. 15 — just two weeks after it began offering them — is a very public demonstration of the important public health role community pharmacy can play in the U.S. healthcare system.
While extremists on both sides of the spectrum argue over the future of healthcare reform and what it will look like, community pharmacy continues to show America what it’s got.
Walgreens, through its 7,000 drug stores nationwide and nearly 350 Take Care clinics, nearly surpassed in just over two weeks the approximately 1.2 million flu shots it gave last season. With more than 16,000 pharmacists, nurse practitioners and physician assistants licensed or certified to provide flu shots, Walgreens has the largest retail network of certified immunizers in the United States, the company stated. Those are numbers that would make any retailer proud.
“We’ve seen tremendous response to the early availability of seasonal flu shots,” stated Walgreens president and CEO Greg Wasson. “Consumers are being proactive when it comes to flu prevention, and it’s gratifying to know that our healthcare professionals are playing such an active role as a valuable resource throughout this flu season.”
Meanwhile, CDC officials decide which venues will provide the long-awaited H1N1 vaccine when it finally does become available. The CDC has stated that providers that have the capability to receive, store and administer vaccine, including but not limited to provider offices, occupational health clinics, hospitals, local health departments, community vaccinators and pharmacies, will likely be designated as vaccine recipients.
However, the CDC has also asked state and local governments to prepare for a mass vaccination program, such that would have to be held at a large area of public congregation with adequate parking, adequate space to split high-priority patients from low-priority, etc. The places that have been mentioned specifically by the CDC are “school gyms, churches, auditoriums, theaters or other large covered public spaces accessible to the elderly and persons with disabilities.”
It is easy to conclude that a mass vaccination would mean quite the time commitment from the patient as they could be forced to take time off work to get the vaccine or take time on the weekend, etc. So community pharmacy and retail clinics would certainly be a convenient option.
The bottom line: One million flu shots in about two weeks is a pretty powerful message to U.S. health officials about the easy accessibility of the local pharmacy. A community pharmacy is within two miles of every American, on average, according to the NACDS.