WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT — There are two crucial points to come out of the Walgreens Flu Impact Report. First is that Walgreens even has a Flu Impact Report. That's reflective of just how fast retail pharmacy is becoming the place to go for a convenient-and-affordable influenza inoculation. Second is the correlation between flu season and holiday travel that includes Thanksgiving and the December season of gift-giving events. Because it doesn't matter where over the hill toward grandmother's house you go, there will be a Walgreens within 3 miles of where you'll be, so your flu shot is covered.
(THE NEWS: Walgreens Flu Impact Report: Flu derailed 3 million travel plans. For the full story, click here.)
Just how much has retail pharmacy become ensconced in the administration of flu shots? "Walgreens ... administered 6.4 million flu shots during the last flu season [2010-2011] as we continued to be the largest provider of flu shots in the country outside of the government," Walgreens president, CEO and director Greg Wasson told analysts in September.
And that's just Walgreens. CVS Caremark, Rite Aid, Walmart and just about every other retail pharmacy out there has identified vaccine delivery as a new, lucrative revenue stream.
Better, flu shots are a gateway vaccine. Because more retail pharmacies also are administering back-to-school vaccines and travel vaccines for those making winter getaways overseas. In fact, the vaccine business at retail is fast evolving into a year-long offering. And with the seasonal spike that flu brings every year, that helps not only to drive foot traffic, but also to increase awareness that patients no longer have to schedule a doctor's appointment in time for the first day of school or that flight out of town.