Pharmacies Prepare For Possible Surge In Flu Vaccinations This Season


Pharmacies are preparing for what is expected to be a surge in flu vaccinations this year as Americans are putting a greater focus on staying healthy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Pharmacies are preparing for what is expected to be a surge in flu vaccinations this year as Americans are putting a greater focus on staying healthy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Flu vaccines are widely recommended for the CDC every year, and pharmacies play an important role in providing convenient access to flu shots and other vaccinations to protect patients and their loved ones against vaccine preventable illness,” Tasha Polster, vice president of pharmacy quality, compliance and safety at Walgreens, told Drug Topics®. “This is even more important during the pandemic to help reduce the overall burden of respiratory illnesses, protecting vulnerable populations and the health care system.”

A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found than about 60% of US adults surveyed planned to get the flu vaccine this fall, which would signal an increase from past years, Reuters reported. Typically, less than half of adult Americans get the flu vaccine each year.1

To prepare for the possible surge, Polster said Walgreens has been working with manufacturers to ensure there is an adequate supply of flu vaccines for the upcoming season and has also worked in collaboration with the Walgreens Boots Alliance globally to identify early warning signs of infection.

“In addition to extensive safety measures already in place, in accordance with CDC guidelines, our pharmacists are required to wear facemasks while administering vaccinations, as well as defer immunizations if the patient is sick, has a fever, or respiratory symptoms,” Polster said. “Patients must also wear a face covering when receiving an immunization, and will be provided a disposable facemask if they do not have their own.”

Rite Aid Corp has also ordered 40% more vaccine doses to meet the anticipated demand and CVS Health Corp has said it is working to ensure it can meet the upcoming numbers of potential customers, according to Reuters.1

William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease expert with Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told the news outlet that more people may be flocking to their pharmacy or local physician’s office to get the flu vaccine because it is one proactive step people can take to protect their health.

“We’re in for a double-barreled assault this fall and winter with flu and COVID. Flu is the one you can do something about,” he said.1

Nancy Messonnier, MD, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, told Reuters that some pharmacies, public health clinics, and other health care providers may find creative ways to get patients the flu vaccine with minimal exposure to others by creating drive-up clinics or other innovative strategies.1

Polster said Walgreens continues to follow the CDC guidelines to ensure the safety of its pharmacists and patients—and will continue to do so as recommendations may continue to evolve.

Pharmacy areas within the stores are also using enhanced cleaning regimens, social distancing protocols, and plexiglass shields at the registers to add additional safety precautions.

“Pharmacists play a critical role in improving patient health outcomes and providing essential preventive care services through vaccination,” Polster said. “With this upcoming flu season anticipated to coincide with a second wave of COVID-19, pharmacists will be even more important in helping patients protect themselves and their loved ones.”


1. Humer C, Steenhuysen J. Fears of coronavirus second wave prompt flu push at US pharmacies, drugmakers. Reuters. May 26, 2020. Accessed June 12, 2020.

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