PLEASANTON, Calif. — Safeway Inc. has begun offering seasonal flu shots at its U.S. stores, with the vaccines being provided at what the company calls "a substantial savings" versus doctor-administered inoculations.
The food and drug retailer said Wednesday the shots will be offered now through March 2010, or while supplies last. Most of the stores will provide the vaccines on a walk-in basis, and others will do so through scheduled flu vaccine clinics.
In addition, Safeway is providing an off-site flu clinic service in most states for businesses, senior centers and nursing homes, enabling employees and residents to receive a flu vaccine where they work or live.
Safeway did not disclose the cost of a vaccine in its announcement nor on the immunization services page of its pharmacy web site. But the company said a seasonal flu shot given at a Safeway pharmacy is "far below the cost of a shot administered during a doctor office visit." Medicare Part B participants will receive the flu shots free.
"We estimate nearly $100 million in savings to the health care system through our program alone," David Fong, senior vice president of pharmacy at Safeway, said in a statement.
The company noted that with the rough economy and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicting a severe flu season, it’s important to supply people with easy, inexpensive access to inoculations.
"We have made the process of getting a flu vaccine affordable and convenient," Fong commented. "Individuals have no reason to go unprotected this flu season, nor should businesses risk lost productivity due to a sick workforce."
Besides offering seasonal flu vaccines, Safeway said it is working with state, local and federal health authorities to obtain a supply of the vaccine for the H1N1 "swine flu" virus. The vaccine is slated to be available in the United States in late October, according to the retailer.
Safeway also offers a range of other immunizations, including shingles, tetanus, pertusis, diptheria, hepatitis, pneumococcal, meningococcal and human papilomavirus (HPV) vaccines.
About 1,300 of Safeway’s more than 1,700 supermarkets have a pharmacy. The retailer’s store banners include Safeway, Vons, Dominick’s, Genuardi’s, Carrs, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Pak ‘n Save and Pavilions banners.