CINCINNATI — Next month Kroger Co. plans to start offering seasonal flu shots through its nearly 2,000 in-store pharmacies.
Emphasizing affordability and convenience, the supermarket operator said Monday that beginning in September, its certified immunizing pharmacists will administer seasonal flu vaccinations for $25 apiece.
In addition, Kroger said that as part of its pandemic planning and seasonal readiness, it’s building inventories of key items for flu prevention and treatment. The company also noted that it’s working on flu season readiness with local, state and federal health authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which are developing and preparing for distribution and administration of an H1N1 "swine flu" vaccine and government stockpile of antiviral medications.
Almost 1 million flu shots were administered through Kroger in-store pharmacies during the 2008-09 flu season, according to the retailer.
"Our customers have saved more than $200 million through our $4 generic program. Our seasonal flu shot program is yet another way of helping our customers with easy, accessible and affordable health services, particularly when they need it most," Lincoln Lutz, Kroger’s vice president of pharmacy operations, said in a statement. "Customers rely on our team of expert pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, who provide professional counsel and service in a convenient, friendly environment."
Kroger has a total of 1,967 pharmacies, making it the nation’s sixth-largest largest operator by pharmacy count. The company is the fifth-biggest pharmacy operator by dollar volume, with estimated pharmacy sales of $6.9 billion from overall sales of $76 billion, according to research by Racher Press, publisher of Chain Drug Review.
The retailer’s 2,475 stores include such banners as Kroger, Ralphs, Fred Meyer, Food 4 Less, Fry’s, King Soopers, Smith’s, Dillons, QFC and City Market.
Ralphs and Food 4 Less reported that they have already begun offering flu vaccinations and will continue to do so throughout the flu season, while supplies last, at 93 in-store pharmacies in southern California. FluMist also is available at some locations.
The two chains said other immunizations they offer include hepatitis, tetanus, meningitis, cervical cancer, pneumonia and Zostavax (herpes zoster), as well as such health care services as memory screenings, smoking cessation, cholesterol screenings and free blood pressure readings.
Supermarket chains continue to build out their pharmacy offerings — including discount generic drug programs, in-store health clinics, online prescription refills, and health and wellness services — as part of a strategy to sharpen their identities as affordable health care destinations.
Last week, for instance, Safeway Inc. began offering seasonal flu vaccines through its in-store pharmacies at what the retailer called "a substantial savings" versus doctor-administered immunizations.
And in early July, Supervalu Inc. unveiled plans to form a new health and wellness division. The supermarket operator said the new unit will enable it to better coordinate its pharmacy and health and beauty aids businesses as well as create a "total health and wellness experience" for customers.