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Seniors, Get in Line: It's Vaccine Time

Eileen Koutnik-Fotopoulos, Staff Writer
Published Online: Thursday, November 1, 2007   [ Request Print ]

Pharmacists have the opportunity to expand immunization services to seniors by offering the shingles and influenza vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention?s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has recommended that adults aged 60 and older be vaccinated with Zostavax (Zoster Vaccine Live [Oka/ Merck]) to prevent herpes zoster, commonly known as shingles. The FDA approved Zostavax on May 25, 2006.

Herpes zoster is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Shingles is a rash that usually manifests on one side of the body. The rash begins as a cluster of small red spots that often blister, and the rash can be extremely painful, according to Zostavax patient information.

The shingles vaccine is not the only immunization seniors should consider. One of the national health objectives for 2010 is to achieve an influenza vaccination coverage level of 90% for individuals aged ≥65, according to the CDC. The agency reported that influenza kills an estimated 36,000 Americans each year and hospitalizes 200,000. For the upcoming 2007-2008 flu season, flu vaccine manufacturers estimate 132 million doses to be available.

Although not all chain pharmacies offer the shingles vaccine, they do hold annual flu programs. In March 2007, Walgreens began offering the Zostavax vaccine year-round at select pilot Walgreens stores. The vaccine is administered by certified Walgreens pharmacists. The pharmacy does plan to expand its offering in states where certified pharmacists are allowed to immunize for shingles. The chain pharmacy recommends appointments for the vaccine or contacting the pharmacy. For additional information, visit www. walgreens.com/shots.

Walgreens offers 2 separate flu programs. The Walgreens pharmacist-administered program continues through December 15 at >5000 clinics in 31 states. Each flu shot costs $24.99. The store accepts some third-party plans and takes Medicare Part B?eligible patients. The pharmacyadministered program encourages appointments to reduce customer wait time and to ensure that adequate vaccine supply is available.

The 2007-2008 flu season marks the 14th year that Walgreens has been offering flu shot clinics. In 17 states, mostly where pharmacists are not allowed to administer vaccines, shots are administered at about 1300 Maxim clinics. This program runs through November 30. Each flu shot costs $30, and insurance coverage varies by state. Shots will be given on a first-come, first-served basis, unless otherwise advised by the CDC.

Patients can find additional information on both programs by calling 800- 358-9950, by visiting www.walgreens. com/flu, from in-store signage, or by asking a Walgreens pharmacist.

Publix recently added Zostavax to its list of vaccines in Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina. The chain is considering adding Georgia locations. No appointment is required, and the cost depends on the patient?s third-party/ Medicare coverage.

For the last 5 years, Publix has been offering its flu shot program. The program runs through flu season (March) as long as the vaccine is available.

The cost for the flu shot is $30, and Medicare Part B is accepted. The vaccine will be administered on a first-come, first-served basis. Publix does accept walk-ins at some locations. Patients can find out more information by visiting www.publix.com/flu, by calling 877-629- 3580, or from in-store signage and posters.

At this time, Kmart does not have a formal Zostavax vaccine program. Kmart pharmacists who have received the appropriate immunization training, practice in a state that allows administration of this vaccine, and have the appropriate prescriber?s order (ie, prescription) may give the vaccine, however. The store is investigating options to expand its vaccination services.

Kmart Pharmacy has offered pharmacist- administered flu immunizations for 3 years. This year?s flu clinics will continue until vaccine supplies are exhausted at >1100 flu vaccination clinics, with walkins available at select locations based upon available vaccine and staffing by Kmart pharmacists with immunization certification. The store does accept Medicare Part B and many private insurance plans. As dictated by the CDC, in the event of a vaccine shortage, priority will be given to specified patient groups. Lacking a specific CDC directive, clinics will be conducted on a first-come, firstserved basis. Patients can find out more information by visiting www.kmart.com, calling 800-822-8345, or asking a Kmart pharmacist.

Currently, CVS does not offer the Zostavax vaccine ?because the very specific conditions with which it must be stored make it logistically impractical for us to keep in our inventory,? according to a company spokesman.

In markets where allowed, CVS pharmacists will be administering flu shots this year in addition to the chain?s regular flu clinics. CVS, which has been offering flu clinics for >10 years, will conduct its program through November at >4000 CVS stores. Clinics will be a combination of pharmacist-administered shots and the standard clinics run by the store?s health care vendor partners. Furthermore, some pharmacist-administered sites will offer on-demand flu shot services and all CVS MinuteClinic in-store locations will offer daily, walk-in vaccination service. Scheduled clinics will operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Each flu shot costs $30. Medicare Part B recipients who have not reassigned their prescription coverage benefits to an HMO may get a flu shot at no cost when they present their Medicare Part B card.

Patients can find out more information by calling 800-SHOP-CVS (800-746-7287) or by visiting www.cvs.com and clicking on the store finder link. The link will have a flu clinic search function. All stores hosting clinics will also have their flu clinic schedule posted. For a related article, go to www.pharmacytimes.com/ vaccines.


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