With more than one bug floating around this fall, supermarket retailers are expecting a very busy flu shot season. National operators have gone so far as to enlist additional store personnel in the fight. Supervalu has trained an additional 40% of pharmacists to administer flu shots.
Almost all retailers are providing information and resources that explain the differences between the seasonal flu and the H1N1 swine flu, along with tips that can help consumers stay healthy during the upcoming cold and flu season.
“In many cases, it's a lack of knowledge that stops people from getting preventative care, like flu shots, that can help them avoid serious complications down the line,” said Chris Dimos, president of Supervalu Pharmacies.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 36,000 people die every year from complications related to the regular flu virus and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu-related causes. Add to that the potentially lethal H1N1 virus, and consumers are especially nervous.
In a letter to the CDC this past August, the Food Marketing Institute reminded federal officials that the supermarket industry is an ideal vaccination channel, having had many years' experience with standard flu vaccination programs.
“Our members are located in urban, suburban and rural areas across America and operate more than 14,000 pharmacies. We are an industry that touches every geographic area and segment of the population,” wrote FMI President Leslie Sarasin.
Whether the CDC will use supermarkets for swine flu immunizations remains to be seen. Right now, the government is rushing to get the vaccine to market.
In the meantime, retailers with vaccination programs have several sources of reliable information, besides their vaccine provider. The CDC updates the situation weekly on a special website called FluView, which tracks outbreaks and flare-ups by state.