The Move To Retail Immunizations: Is It The Right Way To Go?

By Jeff Neumeyer

October 29, 2012 Updated Oct 29, 2012 at 5:39 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) --- Going the retail route for protection against the flu.

It's a growing trend: getting vaccinations at drug and grocery stores.

In a special report, we looked at the benefits and potential drawbacks.

Rolling up your sleeve to be stuck with a needle is not the most pleasant experience, but Linda Ropa-Gebert wouldn't do without her yearly flu shot.

" My husband and I are around children quite a bit, I feel it's very important to have it," Ropa-Gebert said.

The Centers for Disease Control agrees, saying it's not uncommon for influenza to contribute to tens of thousands of deaths in any given year.

A growing number of people turn to drugstores and other retail outlets for flu defense.

20 percent of adults got vaccinated against flu at a retail pharmacy in 2012, up from 12 percent in 2011.

" I think the drugstores are far more accessible than what doctor's offices are. You don't need an appointment," said Tom Chronister, a pharmacist at Fort Wayne Custom Rx.

Chronister believes the retail outlets have helped out customers looking for immunizations in another way.

" I think there is quite a lot of competition on price, so I think that drives it down."

Last year nationally, Walgreens and CVS combined to administer 9-million flu shots.

More recently, big department store and supermarket chains have also gotten into the vaccination business, but some health care professionals aren't sure that the new trend is a good idea.

Fort Wayne Pediatrician Dr. Reshma Khatri is nervous about the proliferation of vaccinations through retail stores.

She says it prevents patients from getting to talk to a doctor direct about things like possible side effects from shots.

She also worries about maintaining complete records of immunizations, especially for children.

" Parents come in, they ask, how many shots do I need this year? I'm going to ask them, did they get two shots last year. They don't know. So, the continuity is lost and that's an issue," Dr. Khatri said.

Insurance companies, in some cases, balk at paying on retail vaccinations.

Kroger counters, it charges just $25.00 for flu shots, which can be less than insurance co-pays anyway.

Nick Sloffer says a person's primary care physician is notified within two weeks of an injection.

He says all Kroger pharmacists are certified immunizers, trained in basic life support for health professionals.

" So, if there is any kind of adverse event associated with that shot while you're here in the store, we can take care of that, we're trained to take care of that," Sloffer said.

Because most shots come from the same big drug manufacturers, sicknesses like the recent outbreak of meningitis from steroid injections could come from a doctor's office or retail store.

Will the neighborhood gas station get into the vaccination business next?

Chronister says that's not going to happen, since the law requires those with needle in hand be certified.

The CDC has taken no position on retail outlets administering flu shots, but a spokesman for the agency says if it's convenient for folks to get their vaccine while they're out shopping, that's better than the alternative, no protection at all.

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