Will Drive-Up Flu Vaccinations Be Prevalent This Fall?

August 27, 2020

Experts caution about safety measures to take when offering parking lot vaccines.

As the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic unfolded, national pharmacy chains and some independents quickly stepped in and offered to be testing sites for the coronavirus. At many CVS and Walgreens stores, for example, individuals can drive up and receive a COVID-19 swab test.

Now, drug stores are parlaying that same philosophy into making influenza vaccinations more convenient and safe during the pandemic.

“Due to the convenience and safety of curbside vaccinations this fall, you are probably going to see a lot of independents doing that,” John Beckner, RPh, senior director of strategic initiatives for the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), told Drug Topics®. “I think the public is going to appreciate if the pharmacy is making every effort to keep them safe, whether doing it in the drive-through, a tent, or somewhere away from the store that can accommodate vaccinations.”

For example, West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee is offering drive-up flu vaccines at most of its stores between mid-August and October 31, it said in a news release. The retailer is also holding flu vaccine clinics from September through November.1

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) said its members are offering several ways for patients to get the vaccine, including parking lot drive-up clinics and off-site vaccination clinics at smaller venues, such as local community centers and senior centers, as well as larger venues like sports arenas.

Key Considerations

Although he lauded the fact that more pharmacies will be offering these alternative options for vaccines, Beckner is cautioning pharmacists about procedural and safety efforts that must be in place for them to be successful.

“You want to make sure you maintain proper administration of the vaccine,” Beckner said. There have been a lot of news reports about patients getting shoulder injuries when the vaccine administrator delivers the vaccine too high up on the arm, he noted.

“Be sure you are at the same level as the patient,” Beckner advised.

Pharmacies may need to offer a spot in the parking lot for individuals to get out of their cars and sit down, so they can properly administer the vaccine in the arm, Hannah Fish, PharmD, associate director of strategic initiatives for NCPA, told Drug Topics®.

Pharmacies also need an option for patients to pull over in the parking lot and wait 15 minutes, so the pharmacist can observe whether they experience an allergic reaction, “like you would in a pharmacy or a doctor’s office,” Beckner suggested.

Another concern is privacy, since some patients may not wear the proper attire to receive a vaccine in the upper arm. “There may be a tent or curtain outside [to] have some sort of privacy mechanism to help with that,” Fish said.

Plus, pharmacies need to consider that, as the temperatures get colder, “it might not be feasible to do something outdoors because of weather,” Fish said.

Extra Precautions

To ensure that individuals feel safe during COVID-19, Hy-Vee noted that its pharmacy team members are required to wear face masks at all times, including while administering immunizations. Likewise, patients receiving vaccines are required to wear a face covering, Hy-Vee said.

NACDS said its chains will also take extra precautions for vaccinations inside the store, including

  • Informing patients ahead of time about preparations that can be made to improve efficiency and physical distancing, such as scheduling vaccination appointments, checking in for appointments digitally and waiting to be called in, preparing screening questionnaires ahead of time, and publicizing physical distancing guidelines and requirements for face masks;
  • Using safety equipment and enhancements to the physical space that provide extra levels of protection;
  • Maximizing overall patient well-being by conducting temperature screening and asking screening questions before the vaccination.

Reference

Hy-Vee pharmacies sharing enhanced safety protocols; offering drive-up flu vaccines beginning Aug. 17. News release. Hy-Vee; July 28, 2020. Accessed August 20, 2020. https://www.hy-vee.com/corporate/news-events/news-press-releases/hyvee-pharmacies-sharing-enhanced-safety-protocols-offering-driveup-flu-vaccines-beginning-aug-17/