Drug store chains and health officials are urging individuals to get the influenza vaccine as soon as possible since the flu season has hit earlier this year and has already caused the death of one four-year-old.
“As does the CDC, we recommend everyone six months of age and older get their annual flu vaccine by the end of October. It takes about two weeks to develop the antibodies to fight the flu after getting your flu shot, so it’s important to get it before the flu spreads in your community to best protect yourself and loved ones,” Alex Novielli, PharmD, manager of immunizations in Pharmacy and Retail Operations for Walgreens tells Drug Topics.
“While the severity of the flu season is unpredictable, it’s important to not wait until flu season is in full swing or there is an outbreak in your area to get the vaccine,” adds Papatya Tankut, vice president of pharmacy affairs at CVS Health.
A 4-year-old boy died in California from the flu in early September, according to the Riverside University Health System in Riverside, Calif. While the child had underlying health issues, he tested positive for influenza, health officials said in a statement.
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“We should never forget that the flu still kills. I always recommend people get their flu shots every year, but a death so early in the flu season suggests this year may be worse than usual,” said Cameron Kaiser, MD, public health officer for Riverside County, in the statement.
Meanwhile, Maryland Secretary of Health Robert Neall urged individuals to get vaccinated after the Maryland Department of Health reported 11 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases since September 1. “Get your flu shot now. Don’t put it off,” Neall said in a press release.
A number of people headed to Walgreens to get the flu shot as soon as it was available and the retailer has “continued to see people coming in to get the vaccine,” Novielli says.
The flu shots are free to patients with most insurances, Novielli says. Plus, the drug store chain is offering customers who get a flu vaccine before November 30th $5 off an eligible purchase of $20 that day in certain stores.
“We are also leveraging marketing tactics, including broadcast, radio, out-of-home, email, paid social and more to encourage everyone to be a Flu Fighter and fight for the ones they love by protecting themselves with a flu vaccine,” Novielli says.
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Similarly, CVS Pharmacy and MinuteClinic are rewarding flu shot recipients with a coupon for $5 off a $25 purchase in most states. For CVS Pharmacy locations in Target, a $5 Target coupon will be rewarded.
"CVS Pharmacy and MinuteClinic Target locations also all have prominent signage to ensure we’re getting the word out that customers should get their flu shot, and we are also using several media channels to drive awareness,” Tankut says.