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September 18, 2014

Why retailers are fighting to give you your flu shot

Daily Briefing

Dozens of retail pharmacies across the United States are getting "creative" to secure consumers' flu vaccination business, Brad Tuttle writes in TIME.

Why retailers want your flu shot business

CDC recommends annual flu vaccinations for almost everyone older than six months.

For stores, offering the vaccine every year is an important way of getting patients in the door. Patients who walk in for their immunization are likely to purchase other products in the store. It also can establish the idea that the store is a good recourse for their health needs going forward, according to Tuttle. 

And unlike other "doorbuster" deals, offering deals on flu shots do not cost the store money.

Details of flu shots at retail chains

Supermarket News recently compiled a list of promotions that various pharmaceutical companies are offering on flu vaccinations in order to draw customers. The deals include:

  • CVS is offering most insured customers a no-cost flu shot and a "shopping pass" for 20% of non-sale items on the day of your vaccination;
  • Giant Food is giving a coupon book with savings of up to $30 to consumers who get their vaccinations at their stores;
  • Safeway is offering a 10% markdown on groceries for consumers who get vaccinated there;
  • Target will waive 5% of your purchase if you get your vaccination there; and
  • Walgreens has developed a program to "Get a Shot. Give a Shot," which promises to vaccinate poor children around the world for every vaccination they give.

CDC: How the vaccine schedule has saved lives


This year, many such stores began carrying flu shots before Labor Day. For example, Rite Aid began selling vaccinations on Aug. 12, while Duane Reade and Walgreens did so on Aug. 19.

How early is too early to vaccinate?

Although it may be profitable for retailers to offer vaccinations earlier and incent consumers to choose their stores, some warn that getting vaccinated too early has its risks.

Why some parents choose to not vaccinate their children

Mark Dowell, an infectious disease doctor at Rocky Mountain Infectious Diseases, says, "If you get your flu shot too early you may run out of protection before peak flu season hits." He notes that a flu shot can start wearing off within four months.


Marketing and Planning Leadership Council
Outreach Strategies for Vaccine Programs

 Rite Aid's Robert Thompson argues, "Getting a flu shot as soon as it is available is the single best way to protect yourself and others against the flu." Similarlly Meijer Drug Store VP Nat Love says consumers should get flu shots "before or soon after school starts" because "once classes begin, kids can literally bring viruses into your home every day, and it becomes difficult to keep influenza from spreading." 

CDC recommends vaccination "before onset of influenza activity in the community," adding, "Health care providers should offer vaccination soon after vaccine becomes available (by October, if possible)… [and the shot] should be offered as long as influenza viruses are circulating" (Tuttle, TIME, 9/14).

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