DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreen Co. said the H1N1 vaccine is now available daily at its more than 7,100 Walgreens pharmacies and 350 Take Care clinics nationwide.
The drug store chain reported Monday that with virtually all states lifting priority group vaccination restrictions, it can provide the H1N1 immunization to anyone in those states who meets state age requirements. Priority group vaccination restrictions are still in effect in Hawaii only, according to the company.
"We share with government and health officials nationwide the goal of protecting as many people as possible from the H1N1 virus, while also helping to lessen the impact or prevent a third wave of H1N1 activity," Walgreens president and chief executive officer Greg Wasson said in a statement.
At this particular time, getting an H1N1 vaccination is a good way to stay healthy, since children are returning to school and many are heading back to work in the wake of family gatherings — a period in which an estimated 87 million Americans were traveling, Walgreens said, citing American Automobile Association figures.
"The holidays can create ideal conditions for viruses to spread, which means those who haven’t gotten a vaccination yet still have an important window of opportunity to protect themselves and their families from H1N1," explained Allan Khoury, chief medical officer for Walgreens subsidiary Take Care Health Systems. "According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], only 15% of Americans have been infected with H1N1 influenza, which means that the majority of the population is still susceptible to the virus."
According to Walgreens, CDC data show that in most flu seasons, influenza activity peaks after the New Year and that over the past 26 seasons, the heaviest flu activity occurred in January or later 80% of the time.
The drug chain also noted that its pharmacies and Take Care clinics are providing pneumococcal immunizations. The H1N1 virus can cause pneumonia more commonly than seasonal flu, and pneumococcal infections have been identified as the most common complication in severe and fatal cases of 2009 H1N1 virus infections, the company said.
In addition, Walgreens reported that seasonal flu shots are still available at most Take Care clinics.