Pharmacies launch new flu vaccine season

Aug 9, 2011 (CIDRAP News) – Walgreens announced yesterday that it has started offering the flu vaccine at stores, and other pharmacy chains also expect to launch their programs for the 2011-12 flu season in the coming weeks.

The company said the flu vaccine is available in all of its 7,700 stores, which include Duane Reade pharmacies in New York and more than 350 Take Care Clinics, according to a company press release.

Meanwhile, the CVS pharmacies and the company's MinuteClinic locations started receiving their vaccine supplies this week, Mike DeAngelis, a CVS spokesman, told CIDRAP News.

Last year the nation's retail pharmacy chains had also started rolling out their in-store flu vaccine programs by the middle of August.

Companies started shipping flu vaccine in mid July. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said last week that it has so far released 119 lots of flu vaccine for distribution. The amount includes vaccine from five of the six pharmaceutical companies that are making flu vaccine for the 2011-12 US flu season.

Walgreens and CVS both said they would be offering Fluzone HD, the high-dose vaccine targeted to people over age 65.

Sanofi, the maker of the new intradermal flu vaccine, has said it doesn't expect to begin shipping that formulation until late September. The novel microinjection needle is 90% shorter than those for other flu vaccines, and the company says the new vaccine is designed to appeal to adults ages 18 through 64, a group with the lowest immunization rates.

This year's vaccine targets the same three strains as last year, including the 2009 H1N1 strain. The companies have projected that they expect to make a record number of doses for the US market this season, between 166 million and 173 million.

Walgreens said a new element of its flu vaccine program this year is that consumers can go online and schedule an appointment to be immunized.

Cheryl Pegus, MD, the company's chief medical officer, said Walgreens is playing an important role in making flu vaccine available to people in underserved areas. She noted in the statement that during the 2009-10 flu season the company administered more than one-third of its flu shots in those regions.

A Jul 17 report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that though doctor's offices are still common setting where adults get their flu vaccines, an increasing number took place elsewhere. About 18% were administered at pharmacies and other retail outlets, according to the report, in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

See also:

Aug 8 Walgreens press release

Aug 3 FDA flu vaccine lot release status

Jul 29 CVS/Caremark press release

Jun 17 MMWR report

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