Walgreen Co. has launched its annual flu vaccination program chainwide, billing itself as "America's most trusted retail health care destination for flu shots."

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Walgreens kicks off flu shot program

August 8th, 2011

DEERFIELD, Ill. – Walgreen Co. has launched its annual flu vaccination program chainwide, billing itself as "America's most trusted retail health care destination for flu shots."

Walgreens said Monday that flu vaccines are now available daily on a walk-in basis during all pharmacy and clinic hours at its 7,700-plus drug stores nationwide, including all Duane Reade pharmacies in metropolitan New York and more than 350 Take Care Clinics.

The drug store chain noted that it has pharmacies within three miles of almost two-thirds of the U.S. population, making it easy for people to receive a flu immunization. And new this season, patients who want to schedule a flu shot appointment at any Walgreens location can do so online at Walgreens.com.

"Our customers value the access we provide, as well as the trusted relationship they have with our pharmacists and other health care professionals, more than 27,000 of whom are clinically experienced in providing flu shots and other immunizations," Kermit Crawford, president of pharmacy, health and wellness at Walgreens, said in a statement. "A Walgreens flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and those around you and to stay well during what is always an unpredictable flu season."

Walgreens reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is again recommending a flu shot for everyone age 6 months and older and suggests getting inoculated every season to be fully protected against influenza.

The pharmacy chain added that all Walgreens points of care also offer Fluzone HD, a high-dose flu vaccine for people over age 65 and other qualified individuals.

Direct medical billing options are also available through a variety of insurance carriers, including UnitedHealthcare and CIGNA nationally, as well as a number of regional providers in select states, Walgreens said, noting that this option enables patients to have a flu shot seamlessly billed to their insurance provider and, depending on the plan, the patient may have little or no out-of-pocket costs.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), more than 20% of the U.S. population lives in a health care professional shortage area (HPSA). Walgreens said company data shows that its pharmacies administered over a third of flu shots in HPSAs during the 2009-2010 flu season (data for the 2010-2011 flu season isn't available yet).

"By making immunizations and other health care services readily available within these communities and other medically underserved areas, we're serving as a vital safety net for prevention and wellness," stated Cheryl Pegus, Walgreens' chief medical officer. "Many of these residents trust and rely upon Walgreens for a broad range of health care needs and trusted information. This further demonstrates the impact pharmacists, nurse practitioners and our other clinicians are making, providing flu shots and other preventive services in all of the communities we serve nationwide."

Walgreens added that it's providing access to a range of other immunizations. The drug chain said HHS also recommends pneumococcal (pneumonia) vaccination for people who are at a high risk for flu, including children, seniors and individuals with certain health conditions. Most Walgreens offer pneumococcal vaccinations daily, with pharmacists at select locations trained to administer all of the more than 20 CDC-recommended immunizations. Shingles vaccine, which has been widely reported to be in short supply from some health care providers, is also available at these select locations and more than 3,000 Walgreens stores nationwide. Both are also available at all Take Care Clinics.

In addition, Walgreens said that over 30 states are now recommending that children entering grades 7 to 12 get vaccinated for pertussis (tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis-Tdap vaccine), or whooping cough. To that end, the chain is offering pertussis immunizations daily at all of its stores in nearly half of the impacted states, including Alabama. Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Washington. Pertussis/Tdap immunizations are also available at all Take Care Clinics and select Walgreens locations in 42 states.