MIDDLETOWN, N.J. -- About 100 shoppers paid $70 each for Lyme disease vaccinations made available through Food Circus Supermarkets here.
Shots were given June 8 at the Oakhurst store's pharmacy in Ocean, N.J., one of four stores with pharmacies in the 12-unit suburban chain. Teaming with the retailer, the Visiting Nurse Association of Monmouth County, Red Bank, N.J., a group comprised of nurse practitioners who perform wellness programs and screenings, administered the shots.
"We think we're the first in the country," said Paul Schneider, director of pharmacy operations. "I don't know of any other company that has done this yet because the vaccine just came out. We were the first supermarket chain on the East Coast to do flu shots in the supermarket, now every supermarket on the East Coast does it."
Injections were scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon. "It went very well, [running] closer to three hours" because of demand, said Schneider, who speculated that response would have been greater if the event were conducted in the evening or on a weekend. "By doing it during the week, we limited ourselves. In the future, we'll do it in the evening."
SmithKline Beecham's Lymerix regimen, which received Food and Drug Administration approval Dec. 22, 1998, is the first vaccine available for the disease. It consists of one shot, another a month later, then another a year later. Schneider said the retailer will offer all shots at the same location.
The week before the shots were given, the retailer used a radio campaign, in-store signage, circulars and handouts to publicize the availability of the vaccinations. "We're paying for all this as a public service," said Schneider. "The only thing the consumer pays for is the injections, which are covered by most insurance companies."
This is not the first time Food Circus has reached out to its customers regarding the disease. The retailer spearheaded a Lyme disease awareness campaign when the disease first came into the public eye. "Monmouth and parts of Ocean County are very high in Lyme disease [cases]," said Schneider.
"When Lyme disease was first recognized in 1987, we were the first supermarket to go to the Department of Health and get all the information to disseminate on Lyme disease. We printed up a circular in our stores explaining what Lyme disease was before anybody even knew about it," he said.
The early-June program was one example of how Food Circus is developing whole-health solutions, said Schneider. The retailer also runs whole-health screening programs that include blood glucose, cholesterol and blood-pressure screenings.