Because of challenges arising from the COVID-19 crisis, Albertsons Cos. is expanding its pharmacy-delivered immunization practice to serve young children.
Albertsons said yesterday that a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declaration now enables the company’s pharmacies to administer vaccinations to children as young as age 3. During the coronavirus pandemic, regular child wellness visits to primary care doctors have decreased, leaving a health care gap, since these visits are where children typically receive key vaccines, including the annual flu shot, the Boise, Idaho-based food and drug retailer noted.
“COVID has disrupted normal life in so many ways. Another consequence is the difficulty in making routine well-child appointments, which threatens to decrease child vaccination rates,” according to Brian Hille, vice president of patient care services and specialty at Albertsons Cos. “Our pharmacy teams are dedicated to the health and wellness of the communities they serve and are ready to provide this important health protection to a precious population — our children.”
No appointment is necessary for child immunizations, and flu and other vaccines can be provided on a walk-in basis, Albertsons said. Before a vaccination is given, a pharmacist will review the child’s vaccine history via the state’s immunization registry, and all doses administered will be reported to the child’s primary care provider and the state registry. The pharmacist, too, will explain to the child’s parent or guardian that wellness visit to the doctor also is integral to preventive care.
Overall, Albertsons Cos. operates more than 1,700 pharmacies across its 2,250-plus grocery stores, including under the Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw's, Acme, Tom Thumb, Randalls, United Supermarkets, Pavilions, Star Market, Haggen and Carrs banners.
Albertsons added that its pharmacies are now stocked with flu shots as influenza season approaches in October. This year, because of the prevalence of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging Americans to get flu and other immunizations to help them stay healthy and avoid potentially overwhelming the nation’s health care system. The CDC also has said flu prevention will be key this season since influenza and COVID-19 have similar symptoms, making the latter more difficult to diagnose.
As part of its coronavirus safety measures, Albertsons said its pharmacies are taking heightened precautions when administering vaccinations and providing other pharmacy services. Patients coming in for flu shots will be pre-screened for COVID-19 symptoms
In addition, customers must wear masks in all stores; all pharmacy staff must wear masks and gloves; all pharmacies have plexiglass dividers at the pharmacy counter; and wellness rooms are regularly sanitized and cleaned in between patient visits. Social distancing signs also designate waiting areas, and hand sanitizer is available at all touch points.