With many Americans planning to resume travel and in-person gatherings for the holidays this year, Walgreens said we may see a spike in cases of respiratory illnesses following the Thanksgiving holiday and as we move further into the winter season.
Noting that vaccines are the best way to protect against this potential surge, Walgreens said that many people are lagging behind on receiving their vaccinations. The CDC estimates that only 34.8% of adults and 32.6 % of children have gotten their flu shot so far this season. Far fewer people—just under 14% of adults and 5% of eligible children—have gotten the new COVID-19 vaccine, the agency reports.
Walgreens provided the following data:
- COVID-19 and flu activity are already picking up in many communities this year, increasing the chances of holiday spread;
- The 2023-2024 Walgreens Flu Index shows flu activity is 50% higher than last week with Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas and Puerto Rico seeing the highest rates of activity as of Nov. 11;
- The Walgreens COVID-19 Index shows a national positivity rate of 27.2% as of Nov. 12. While this is lower than the peak of 44.9% we saw earlier this fall, 26 states are still seeing positivity rates higher than the national average, including Nevada (54.7%), New Mexico (44.2%), New York (43%), Idaho (42.9%) and New Hampshire (41.2%).
- In October, only 15% of individuals who received their flu shot at Walgreens were millennials, and only 9% were Gen Z. The rates are even lower for COVID-19 vaccines.
- About 60% of individuals who have received their vaccinations at Walgreens this fall are seniors (60+).
- For those who are still looking to schedule their vaccinations appointments ahead of the holidays, you may want to plan around the most popular times:
- Friday is the most popular day to get vaccinated, with 17% more appointments than the daily average.
- The least popular day to get vaccinated is Sunday, according to Walgreens data, with 37% fewer appointments than the daily average.
“While it’s exciting to resume bigger holiday gatherings and trips, remember that respiratory illnesses are in circulation. We don’t want to bring flu, COVID-19 or RSV home for the holidays. I encourage everyone to get their recommended vaccines as soon as possible before you travel or gather, to allow time for immunity to fully develop and increase your protection. It’s also important to brush up on prevention tactics—such as washing your hands frequently and being mindful of your own health—before visiting elderly relatives,” said Michael Pedro, a Walgreens pharmacist.
The CDC recommends that everyone ages six months and older receive a flu shot and the updated COVID-19 vaccine this fall. Seniors ages 60 and up and individuals who are 32-36 weeks pregnant also should consider getting the RSV vaccine, the retailer said.
At Walgreens, you can get all recommended immunizations during the same visit for yourself and up to three other people, the retailer noted, adding that vaccines are available at no cost for flu, COVID-19 and in most cases, RSV.
[Read more: Walgreens releases 2023-2024 flu index]
COVID-19 vaccines will either be covered by insurance or government assistance programs, such as the CDC’s Bridge Access Program. The flu shot is covered by most insurance plans with a $0 copay, although provider networks may vary; those enrolled in Medicare Part B and many with Medicaid in certain states also may receive the flu and RSV shot at no cost.
To schedule a vaccination appointment at Walgreens, visit here, use the Walgreens app or call 1-800-WALGREENS. We offer flexible openings, including nights, weekends and walk-ins when available.
Walgreens also advised that testing is an important way to prevent transmission at holiday gatherings, especially if you are experiencing respiratory symptoms or preparing to see high-risk loved ones.
The retailer offers multiple flu and COVID-19 testing options, including over-the-counter, PCR and an easy "2 results in 1" rapid test for COVID-19 and influenza A and B.
To learn more, go online here, use the Walgreens app, call 1-800-WALGREENS or visit your local Walgreens.
[Read more: Walgreens rolls out 2022-2023 flu shots]
Lastly, Walgreens suggested that your pharmacist can discuss in-store or virtual care treatment options. Walgreens also offers a full range of over-the-counter and prescription medications if you begin experiencing respiratory symptoms over the holidays. Walgreens provides 24-hour same-day delivery for medicine cabinet essentials, so you can stock up ahead of the holidays and peak respiratory season.