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Immunization offerings expand past flu, shingles


While much of the focus on pharmacist-administered vaccinations has been on influenza and shingles, there also have been efforts to significantly expand the number of diseases against which customers at the local pharmacy can get protection.

Last month, warehouse retailer Sam’s Club announced that it would offer 10 immunizations at its 552 pharmacies for cold and flu season. In partnership with Mollen Immunization Clinics, it’s also offering an expanded menu of immunizations by registered nurses through Nov. 15. The immunizations include flu, pneumonia, chickenpox, shingles, Tdap, human papillomavirus, MMR, meningitis and hepatitis A and B. Around the same time, Miami-based regional retail pharmacy chain Navarro Discount Pharmacy announced it would expand its selection of available vaccines to include shingles and pneumonia at all of its stores.

Another opportunity that exists for pharmacy retailers is specialization in areas like travel vaccinations, such as those for hepatitis A and B. Seattle-based regional chain Bartell Drugs has offered comprehensive travel clinics at several of its stores for a while now, and other retailers are doing the same. 

In August, an education session at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ Pharmacy and Technology Conference in Denver presented some of the opportunities and challenges involved in travel medicine. Travel medicine requires expertise on a number of subjects, such as patient education, immunization and pharmacology. “These are things pharmacists are already very skilled at or can easily become skilled at,” the session’s presenter, University of Southern California pharmacy professor Jeff Goad, said. Vaccines, he added, are only part of it.

Pharmacy retailers looking to get involved with travel medicine also should consider carrying products travelers would need, particularly if they’re going to developing countries. These include water purification tablets, mosquito nets and insect repellents. In addition, pharmacists consulting prospective travelers should know ways to deal with such noninfectious conditions as jet lag and altitude sickness.

Travel medicine requires some investment on the retailer’s part, such as setting aside an area to provide services, necessary education for the pharmacist and stocking up on travel-related products, Goad said, as well as collaborative practice agreements with physicians that may be needed for certain vaccinations and medications, travel medicine software, and in many states, a special stamp that certifies a pharmacy for delivering yellow fever vaccinations.

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