Chain pharmacies, already fully engaged in providing flu shots, have extended their immunization programs to respond to a whooping cough (pertussis) outbreak in California.

chain pharmacies, immunization, whooping cough, pertussis, California, California Department of Public Health, Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS, pertussis epidemic, pertussis immunizations, vaccinations, Bill Hose, pharmacists, Robert Thompson, Larry Merlo, Dan Miller, pharmacy, drug stores, Geoff Walden

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Inside This Issue - News

Immunizations raise profile of retail pharmacy

October 25th, 2010

NEW YORK – Chain pharmacies, already fully engaged in providing flu shots, have extended their immunization programs to respond to a whooping cough (pertussis) outbreak in California.

With the state on pace for its worst pertussis epidemic in nearly five decades, federal and state officials have strongly encouraged vaccinations to help increase immunity and stop the spread of the disease.

As of mid-October, Walgreen Co. was offering pertussis immunizations at all of its more than 580 stores statewide. Walgreens pharmacists in the state can administer immunizations to anyone 9 and older.

“We share in the recommendations of state and federal health officials that the best thing people can do to keep themselves and their families healthy during this epidemic is to get vaccinated,” says Bill Hose, California market vice president for Walgreens.

“In addition to children, who are the most vulnerable, those who care for or are in contact with children should also be immunized,” Hose adds. “And we’re continuing to stress these important statewide recommendations to our patients, customers and the public.”

For its part, Rite Aid Corp. had pharmacists at more than 500 California stores providing the vaccinations.

“Helping protect against whooping cough in California is another example of how convenient neighborhood Rite Aid pharmacists can help the community stay healthy,” says Robert Thompson, the chain’s executive vice president of pharmacy. “Administering these shots is part of Rite Aid’s expanded national immunization program with more than 7,000 pharmacists in more than 3,000 stores vaccinating patients against flu, pneumonia and up to a dozen other highly infectious diseases.”

Immunizations, says Larry Merlo, president and chief operating officer of CVS Caremark Corp., have raised the profile of the pharmacy profession and extended its reach. Noting that pharmacists administered 10 million H1N1 vaccines during the last flu season, he says drug chains capitalized on the opportunity presented by fears of an epidemic.

The ability to provide inoculations was “a catalyst to move us away from being a dispenser of products and toward being a provider of services,” adds Merlo, who is also chairman of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.

Dan Miller, senior vice president of pharmacy at Rite Aid, says the H1N1 outbreak has resulted in more states recommending immunizations at lower ages.

The California Department of Public Health has expanded its recommendations to urge anyone 7 and over without full immunity from pertussis to get vaccinated. Rite Aid pharmacists in California can vaccinate anyone 7 and over against whooping cough, while the chain’s age minimum for other vaccines is 3, depending on state regulations and established guidelines.