NEW YORK — Community pharmacies across the country began offering H1N1 vaccines late last month after state health agencies lifted priority group restrictions on the inoculations.
“We share with government and health officials nationwide the goal of protecting as many people as possible from the H1N1 virus, while helping to lessen the impact or prevent a third wave of H1N1 activity,” Walgreen Co. president and chief executive officer Greg Wasson says.
Walgreens is offering H1N1 flu vaccines in its roughly 7,100 stores (except for its nine stores in Hawaii, where priority restrictions are still in effect) and its 350 Take Care in-store clinics.
“By offering convenient, affordable access to the vaccine, as well as other health and wellness resources, Walgreens continues to play an integral role in helping people stay well throughout the flu season,” notes Wasson.
Similarly, CVS Caremark Corp. has made the vaccine available in its stores in 28 states and the District of Columbia as well as in most of its MinuteClinics.
“Our customers depend on CVS/pharmacy and MinuteClinic for their health care needs,” CVS Caremark chief medical officer Troyen Brennan says.
Brennan is among a number of health care providers who say that although the H1N1 flu is not as widespread as originally thought, the virus is likely to spread in the coming months.
“H1N1 flu is currently active in many communities across the country, and it is likely that we will see increased flu activity, as is typically the case, in January and February,” he explains.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that in most flu seasons, influenza activity peaks after the new year. CDC records indicate that in 80% of the time over the past 26 seasons, the heaviest flu activity occurred in January or later.
With the H1N1 vaccine becoming more widely available, community pharmacies are stressing the fact that they are a convenient place for patients to obtain a flu shot.
For instance, Rite Aid Corp., which is offering the vaccine in 1,257 stores in 30 states, has posted signs saying “Protect Yourself: H1N1 Vaccinations Are Available” on the entrances of those stores and inside them.
Kroger Co., meanwhile, is promoting its own H1N1 flu shots on the cover of the grocery chain’s weekly ad circulars, and Walgreens has begun advertising the availability of vaccines in television commercials and on its web site.