Advice, referrals and lists of immunity-boosting foods weren't exactly what the doctor ordered in this year of the two flus — seasonal and H1N1 — but that's what supermarket clinics were left with after production of the seasonal flu vaccine came to a grinding halt in late October. Without vaccines to drive the clinics, retailers shifted their outreach from the pharmacy to the grocery side, where oranges full of vitamin C, plus green tea and hand sanitizer were prominently featured in displays and circulars.
“Everyone got clobbered,” lamented Bruce Kneeland, a pharmacy consultant based in Valley Forge, Pa.
Flu awareness this year prompted many retailers to create clinic programs built around their pharmacies. The ensuing shortages meant that nearly all of the clinics, whether run by third-party service providers or conducted in-house with certified pharmacy personnel, were not able to execute their promotions.
“We had already completed a little more than half of our scheduled clinics,” said Karen Meleta, spokeswoman for ShopRite Supermarkets.
The situation is still not as bad as the 2004-05 seasonal flu season, when one of the world's largest vaccine producers was shut down for unsanitary plant conditions.
“Even with this year's delay, they're still forecasting about 114 million doses coming to market,” said Steve Pellito, national director of wellness for Maxim Healthcare, the largest flu shot provider in the country. “In 2004, I believe that number was 50 million. So it's not nearly as harsh as it was then.”