The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) has launched a new campaign stressing that flu vaccinations are essential to protect public health and to prevent an overrun of the healthcare system due to the dual threat of flu and COVID-19, as supermarket pharmacies nationwide are ramping up their flu vaccination programs.
NACDS — which represents national and regional pharmacies in the traditional drugstore, supermarket and mass retail settings — has released English and Spanish video ads designed to spread the critical public health message. An online toolkit makes it easy for patient groups, allied healthcare associations, businesses, government and others to sign up as partners and to use the ads, polling data, social media resources and more. NACDS also is spreading the word through national satellite media tours.
“Adding to the challenge of defeating COVID-19 is a flu season that is rapidly approaching and presenting the possibility of a two-front public health war,” said NACDS President and CEO Steven C. Anderson. “We need to call on Americans to do what they can right now to protect themselves and to protect their loved ones, and getting their flu vaccinations is a vital part of that. Flu vaccinations are safe, effective and easy to get, and they are available for free under many insurance plans. Let’s beat the flu together, and pharmacies also will be there to defeat COVID-19 when those vaccinations are available.”
“All healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, have an important role to play in encouraging everyone age six months and older to get vaccinated each year against flu,” said Marla Dalton, CAE, executive director and CEO of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. “Flu vaccination is especially important this year to help protect individuals and prevent additional strain on an already overburdened U.S. healthcare system.”
NACDS noted that it is critical to raise the public’s awareness of the importance of flu vaccinations, as demonstrated by a recent poll that it commissioned and that was conducted by Morning Consult. The poll found that while two-thirds of adults (67%) say getting a flu vaccination is important to protecting health right now, this is still shy of the percentage of those who indicate the importance of wearing a mask (86%), washing hands (93%), physical distancing (89%), and staying home when sick (93%).
“Each year, influenza in the United States causes millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and tens of thousands of deaths,” said Judy Monroe, MD, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation. “When you add those numbers into illnesses and hospitalizations from COVID-19, which will be co-circulating with the flu, it provides a potentially daunting situation for our health and public health systems. Everyone should get a flu vaccination to protect themselves and others from this dangerous threat.”
Retailers launch vaccination programs
Among grocery retailers with pharmacies, The Save Mart Companies last week launched its flu shot and immunization program available at all Save Mart, Lucky and Lucky California pharmacies throughout California and Northern Nevada. Save Mart, Lucky and Lucky California pharmacies have geared up and are ready to help customers and patients protect themselves during this upcoming flu season. Flu shots are free of charge with most insurance plans.
“With COVID-19, it is in everyone’s best health interest to get a flu shot and be up-to-date on their immunizations,” said Robert Vaughan, Save Mart’s executive director of pharmacy. “With conveniently located pharmacies throughout California and Northern Nevada, our pharmacy teams are ready to help our customers and patients safely prepare for the flu season.”
To prepare for the flu season, The Save Mart Companies is introducing new safety procedures at all pharmacies for immunizations and flu shot administration. Patients must pass a New Immunization Consent screening form with COVID-19 questions to determine patients’ health status prior to the vaccine. The screening forms are utilized to ensure patients are not sick, have not been exposed to someone with COVID-19, and do not have a fever of 100.4°F or higher on the day they get their immunization. The screenings form is available online and in stores and must be filled out on the day of their flu shot/immunization.
New policies and procedures also include mandatory mask wearing by patients and mandatory face shield with drape or face covering beneath it by pharmacists. All patients will be required to take a pre-vaccination temperature check. Safety procedures are designed to protect patients and pharmacy team members during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans is also taking extra steps to safely and easily administer flu shots at its 103 stores.
“This year, getting a flu shot is more important than ever and we’ve secured an ample supply for our customers,” said Stacy Cairns, Wegmans pharmacist and pharmacy clinical and wellness services coordinator. “According to the CDC, flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization and death. Receiving a flu vaccine this fall not only reduces your risk of getting the flu but also helps to conserve potentially scarce healthcare resources.”
In addition to heightened sanitation practices, pharmacists will wear additional protective gear and have minimized the amount of necessary paperwork to streamline the process and reduce touchpoints. Customers can stop by during normal business hours to receive their shot. There is no need for a prescription, and in most cases, the fee is covered in full by insurance. Wegmans pharmacies are also offering special times for seniors to receive their flu shots.
Several Wegmans locations will be offering flu clinics, including drive-thru options, this fall. In addition, pharmacy teams have partnered with some local county offices to offer community flu shot events. Customers will have the opportunity to get their flu shot in an easily accessible, secure location or in some cases, from the safety of their car.
The Wegmans Pharmacy Business Partnership Program offers onsite flu clinics for employers interested in giving employees a quick and easy way to protect themselves from the flu, without leaving the office. Wegmans makes it easy for employers to host an on-site flu clinic with online scheduling for employees, and the ability to bill individual plan sponsors or billing direct to employers. The employer on-site flu clinics are offered in all Wegmans market areas.
In recent weeks, large grocery chains with pharmacies, including Albertsons and Ahold Delhaize USA banners Giant Food and Stop & Shop, have also launched their flu vaccination programs.
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