Supercenter retailer Meijer anticipates administering 75% more flu shots this year, as coronavirus remains top of mind for consumers nationwide.
Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer said yesterday its pharmacists expects record-breaking turnout for flu vaccinations over the next several weeks. According to Jason Beauch, vice president of pharmacy, the increase reflects patients’ higher awareness of the need to be protected and preferences for more convenient and flexible options.
So far this year, a third of flu shots provided by Meijer were administered on weekends and before or after traditional business hours, the company noted.
“When it comes to getting your flu shot, the earlier in the season, the better,” Beauch said in a statement. “While the flu shot will not protect against the coronavirus, getting it as soon as you can helps protect you and your family from unwanted illness and can help reduce the potential for symptoms that could be confused with COVID-19.”
Because of the prevalence of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this year 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.
Meijer offers flu vaccines, including quadrivalent and senior dosage options, on a walk-in basis at all of its pharmacies during regular pharmacy hours. Senior citizens and customers with chronic health conditions can get a flu shot during dedicated pharmacy hours from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Depending on location, flu shots and other immunizations also may count as prescription credits in Meijer’s mPerks Pharmacy Rewards Program, which enables customers to earn savings on future purchases.
To speed up the vaccination process, customers can print their flu shot form at home and bring it with them. And in anticipation of a busy flu season, Meijer has expanded its contactless, texting-based pharmacy services to allow patients to fill out immunization forms and give their consent online before visiting the pharmacy, eliminating the need for in-person paperwork and use pens and clipboards. After receiving the completed digital forms from patients, pharmacists finalize the transaction and reply with a text message to alert them that their vaccine is ready to be administered.
Patients also can schedule flu shots up to 10 days in advance. On their scheduled day, they will receive a text reminder that their flu shot is ready. The digital pharmacy system, too, will automatically notify the State Registry for Immunizations and the patient's primary care provider once the shot is administered.
Meijer said it launched the web app technology earlier this year and expanded during the pandemic to make pharmacy visits safer and easier for patients. The tool allows customers to access a personalized app-like online experience through a link in a text message sent by Meijer pharmacists to their mobile phone. From there, customers can confirm prescription pickup times, prepare for and schedule vaccination visits, connect their Meijer mPerks to their transaction and check out on their mobile device.
All customers are required to wear masks when receiving immunizations, Meijer said. The company noted that its pharmacists wear masks and follow specific protocols to disinfect all surfaces and areas where shots are administered between each patient visit. During the last few years, most pharmacies have been expanded to include private consultation rooms, where patients can receive vaccines, the retailer added.
Overall, Meijer operates 253 supercenters and grocery stores in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin.
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