Pharmacies Need to Be Part of Fighting Influenza

And right now, they aren’t (boldface mine):

When adults want a flu shot, they have two choices: go to the doctor or go to a pharmacy.

But in most states, laws prevent parents from just walking into a pharmacy and getting their children vaccinated for the flu. Public health experts say that’s costing children’s lives.

“Parents should have no barriers whatsoever to getting a flu shot,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University. “It’s what we’d call a no-brainer.”

Currently, 40% of children don’t get a flu vaccine, and public health authorities are keen to change that. Flu kills children every year; last year, 143 children lost their lives to the flu.

Another reason to get children vaccinated: With their less than ideal hygiene, they’re powerful at spreading the flu to others.

Pharmacies are an attractive alternative for many busy parents, since they have evening and weekend hours, and there’s no need for an appointment.

But three states — Florida, Connecticut and Vermont — don’t allow children to be vaccinated in pharmacies, and another 30 states have restrictions based on the child’s age.

“We’re relinquishing our responsibilities as a society if we don’t really aggressively try to get as many children vaccinated with the flu vaccine as possible,” added Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “I just want to see more children get vaccinated. I don’t really care how you do it.”

It’s unclear why so many states restrict children from getting the flu vaccine at pharmacies. The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t object to children getting vaccinated at pharmacies, according to the group’s position paper on preventing flu.

“It’s the same vaccine. Pharmacists are trained to give it. I had my own flu shot at a pharmacy and my grandchildren have, too,” said Redlener, who lives in New York, where children over age 2 can get a flu vaccine at a pharmacy.

And some doctors really need to get on board with this:

She was told that if children get their flu shots in pharmacies, the pediatrician’s office wouldn’t know how many to order for the following year.

Nabers understood the bureaucratic predicament, but it still didn’t seem like a good enough reason for her or her husband to miss work, or for her children to miss school. She even considered finding a new pediatrician.

“I didn’t threaten to leave, but I told them while I loved their practice, I was very unhappy with this and would have to consider it moving forward,” she said.

Only then did the office call in a prescription to the pharmacy — and the nurse made it clear that it was a one-time exception.

While much of the discussion around healthcare is about Bending Cost Curves Like Beckham, a national system would make administering things like vaccines much easier–and, if the anecdote is correct, would remove incentives to make getting shots harder.

It’s critical for kids, not just for their health, but for everyone else’s: the grandchildren are killing their parents, since kids are an important vector of influenza. Even without healthcare reform, we need to let kids get flu shots at the pharamacy.

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1 Response to Pharmacies Need to Be Part of Fighting Influenza

  1. Joe Shelby says:

    Laws aren’t the only blocker. Insurance companies can be as well. I used to get mine at my local-preferred pharmacy, along with my wife (we went to our pediatrician for the kid’s shot, but they have a walk-in clinic for that each year)…but then, we couldn’t anymore after an insurance change.

    My previous insurer just considered it a drug – OTC with signatures needed but no prescription required. No problem.

    My current insurer has decided it is a “procedure”, not a drug, and so won’t cover a pharmacist performing it, even though they have just as much training as part of their job (even if they don’t use it as often as a nurse-practitioner would). So now we have to go to a clinic to take care of it (with a much longer wait time – my wife said hers took 90 minutes of sitting around), even though there’s no restrictions in our state for that requirement at all.

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