Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

The flu frenzy has begun

August 31, 2009

flu-shotPeople have been worried about the H1N1 flu, aka swine flu, for months but the vaccine for that flu is not expected until at least mid-October.

So, for the time being, we’re taking a look at how the three major U.S. drugstore chains are preparing for the seasonal flu, which is responsible for about 36,000 deaths in the United States each year.

A survey conducted by Walgreen in mid-August found that 50 percent of consumers plan to get a seasonal flu shot this year, up from 43 percent who say they got one last season.  Twenty-seven percent of respondents to the online poll said they were more concerned about getting the flu than they were a year ago. 

Another poll found more than 60 percent of Americans plan to get the H1N1 flu vaccine.

CVS is putting the biggest dollar figure behind its push, unveiled on Monday, offering $3 million worth of seasonal flu shots to the unemployed this season.  That’s 100,000 shots.

Walgreen has another lofty number in mind — 5 million.  That is the number of vaccinations the largest drugstore chain by revenue wants to administer this season.  Last flu season, it handled 1.2 million shots and nasal spray flu vaccinations.

Walgreen said it would give vouchers for $1 million worth of flu shots, or 40,000 of them, to uninsured consumers.  Walgreen is also asserting itself as having the largest U.S. retail network of immunizers, with 16,000 able to administer the shots. Last year, only 7,500 of the company’s pharmacists could do so, a spokeswoman said.

Rite Aid, the smallest of the three chains, said it has more than 2,000 certified immunizing pharmacists on hand at more than 1,500 of its 4,800-plus stores.

Pricing for shots will vary.  Walgreen is promoting its flu shots at $24.99, while CVS and Rite Aid each priced their shots at $30.

(Reuters photo)


Anheiser-Busch should have gotten in on the swine flu PR marketing campaign — a flu shot and a beer.

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