PITTSBURGH — On Saturday, Giant Eagle was to begin offering drive-through flu shot clinics at 11 of its Ohio stores.
While the chain has held outdoor clinics before in the Pittsburgh area, this is its first time in Ohio, said spokesman Dan Donovan. The retailer will not offer the outdoor clinics in Pittsburgh this year.
“In general, the drive-through flu shot clinics require more resources than in-store clinics. We have tested the offering in Pittsburgh in the past, and saw strong customer turnout for these events. We wanted to introduce the clinics to Ohio customers to both gauge customer reaction and provide a special convenience offering,” Donovan told SN.
Registration and refreshments are set up in the parking lot while customers can stay in their cars. It is not done at the pharmacy drive-through window.
“Our drive-through flu shot clinics allow the entire family to receive their flu vaccinations without ever leaving the comfort of their car. Three staging areas will be set up in the parking lot of each clinic, allowing customers to provide the necessary personal and insurance information, receive the flu shot and wait the recommended 10 minutes afterward while enjoying drinks and snacks courtesy of Giant Eagle team members,” Donovan said.
Outdoor flu shot clinics are held by other health organizations, although few supermarkets besides Giant Eagle are known to have offered them. Kroger Co., Cincinnati, for instance, held one on Oct. 1 in Indianapolis.
Giant Eagle scheduled the first six for Saturday, Oct. 11, at Cleveland-area stores, with another five to follow in the region. The shots will be administered by pharmacists for $30. Two more are set for the Columbus area, in partnership with home care organization LifeCare Alliance, Columbus, where the nurses will give the vaccines for $25 with the Giant Eagle Advantage card, or $30 without.
“Giant Eagle has a history of being very innovative and leading edge in their patient care programs,” said Bob Dufour, a former pharmacy executive with Wal-Mart Stores, and now a consultant with Ernst & Young, New York.
Others were skeptical of holding flu shot clinics outdoors.
Bruce Kneeland, a former association executive and now a pharmacy industry consultant in Royersford, Pa., noted that flu shots require some time for recovery or reaction to occur. “Seems to me, I wouldn't want people driving off before it was known if the shot will cause a reaction,” he said.
A pharmacy executive with a major supermarket chain had concerns about the sterility of an outdoor event. “My personal feeling is, I wouldn't do a drive-through. To me, it's a little tacky,” he said.
“Professionalism is involved in being able to sit and talk to the pharmacist in the same general area where the vaccinations are being given. In today's environment, because of the number of clinics that exist and the hours of operation, the convenience factor is already there with the in-store events. Most people can fit the flu shot into their schedule.”