SUNBURY, Pa. — Weis Markets here announced this week it would begin offering flu shots in its 120 in-store pharmacies. The flu season has grown into a regular promotional event along with back to school for most retailers with pharmacies.
This has been precipitated by flu vaccine shortages and the H1N1 pandemic, which raised public awareness of the importance of annual flu shots, said Lisa Fowler, a pharmacist and director management and professional affairs for the National Community Pharmacists Association, Alexandria, Va.
She said that privately run pharmacies have offered immunization services for years. It has become a revenue stream to help compensate for low reimbursement rates from prescription drug sales. But with greater public awareness over the last several years, chain pharmacies have begun to incorporate these services into their business model.
"It's a good little business niche to have. You become a health care provider and promote the public health facet," she told SN.
Weis Markets, under its WEISCARE Adult Immunization Services program, goes beyond dispensing the seasonal flu. It also offers immunization services for pneumonia, shingles, meningitis, tetanus/diphtheria/whooping cough and hepatitis A and B per state regulation. Many other retailers have developed all-encompassing immunization programs as well.
Weis is in its second year of the program. The retailer made an effort this year to increase the number of certified pharmacist immunizers.
"This trend began in recent years and was a small part of what we did last year, but is a very big part of this year's program," Dennis Curtin, a spokesman for Weis, told SN. "The immunizers increase the accessibility — it's a big step forward."
“With our certified pharmacist immunizers, it has never been easier to get a flu shot in a Weis Markets’ store — walk-up immunizations are now available in our pharmacies and we’re also offering our WEISCARE Adult Immunization services to businesses and senior centers in the communities that we serve,” stated Jeff Maltese, Weis Markets’ vice president, pharmacy, in a press statement.
Besides the walk-in immunization services, later in the fall, Weis will host 65 flu-shot clinics in its stores.
For most senior citizens, flu shots are covered by Medicare parts B and D. Flu shots are also covered by many private prescription insurance plans. Curtin said that 80% of immunizations are covered by third parties, including Medicare.
Weis flu shot recipients will also receive a money-saving coupon booklet valued at $37. Curtin said the coupon booklet give-away is a new incentive this year that is tied into savings at Weis Markets’ stores.
Last year, Weis dispensed 10,000 flu shots.