What you should know before you get vaccinated at a pharmacy

What you should know before you get vaccinated at a pharmacy


The pharmacist in your neighborhood may offer you a cost-effective and convenient way to get you and your family all the essential vaccines.

Your local drugstore may be the answer if you need a flu shot or to get up to date on other vaccinations.

Local pharmacists are highly contributing to the "immunization neighborhood,’’ says William Schaffner, MD, a specialist in infectious diseases, and professor of preventative medicine and health policy at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee. “Nowadays pharmacists are thoroughly trained in vaccines and their indications, and also with inoculation techniques.’’

It is easier to pay attention to your vaccination needs because your pharmacist is more readily accessible than your doctor.

According to a study published in the January-February 2018 issue of the Canadian Pharmacists Journal, people see their local druggist more often than they pay a visit to their primary care physician.

Dr. Schaffner says “Patients see their pharmacists more than their healthcare providers, and every single visit is a chance to bring vaccinations up to date and to review the immunization history.’’

Jenny Sippel-Thompkins, director of a pharmacy at AdventHealth Orlando, shares the same opinion. “Pharmacists have become a convenient option for vaccinations because they are the most accessible provider of healthcare,’’ she says. “Pharmacists also educate people about the value of recommended vaccines.’’

In which places can you get vaccinations?

Vaccinations are administered at drugstore chains, including Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, warehouse clubs such as Sam’s Club, Costco, and other independent pharmacies.

Some specific vaccinations require a doctor’s prescription, and it all depends on the state laws.

Pharmacists have to undergo additional training for their state licenses and follow protocols for vaccination safety if they want to administer vaccines,’’ says Sippel-Thompkins.

What you need to know before you go to the drugstore for vaccination

Before you pay a visit to the pharmacy for vaccination, you need to know some things:

  • Most pharmacies operate on a walk-in basis and do not require an appointment, but if you plan on getting your entire family vaccinated or if you need several immunizations, it would be better if you call ahead
  • Some pharmacies have different age limits when it comes down to vaccines. For example, Sam’s Club administers vaccines for patients ages 8 and older while vaccines at Walgreens are available for children ages 7 and up
  • It may take up to 10 minutes for the pharmacist to prepare for your immunizations
  • Bring your photo ID and insurance information
  • he pharmacy will require you to sign a consent form, in order to send the information to your healthcare team and update your medical record
  • It is advisable to stick around after you receive the immunizations, in case of a reaction
  • If you are not sure about the recommended immunizations for adults and children, please review the schedules provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

What kind of vaccines can a pharmacist administer?

Apart from the flu shot, most pharmacists can give vaccines to protect against:

  • Hepatitis A (hep A)
  • Hepatitis B (hep B)
  • HPV (human papillomavirus)
  • Meningitis (meningococcal)
  • Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
  • Polio
  • Pneumonia
  • Тetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap)
  • Shingles (herpes zoster)
  • Chickenpox (varicella)

Some pharmacies provide CDC-recommended immunizations for travel. For example, Walgreens offers specific destination vaccines for Japanese encephalitis, yellow fever and typhoid.

CVS offers other kinds of injections such as vitamin B12 injections and birth control.

Dr.Schaffner says, “Pharmacists are making it easy for patients to be vaccinated because they are conveniently located. I look forward to the future where they will play even a more important role in providing this essential preventive health service.’’

How much do vaccines cost?

Pharmacies that offer immunizations will file according to your insurance plan. You may still have a copаy or deductible. Some private insurers cover all the vaccination costs.

Medicare entirely covers pneumonia, the flu, and hepatitis B vaccines under Part B. If you have Medicare Part D (the Medicare Advantage plan), vaccinations are treated like prescription drugs with deductibles and copays.

It is beneficial to shop around, because pharmacies charge differently for vaccinations, so you should do your homework if you want to know which one is the cheapest.

Nonmembers are welcome to Costco’s pharmacies where required by state law, and Sam’s Club doesn’t require membership.

Pharmacies often offer rewards or free loyalty programs. Members can gather points and therefore get discounts on in-store purchases and immunizations.

Can I get low-cost or free vaccinations?

It doesn’t matter if you go to your doctor’s office, a pharmacy, or an urgent care clinic, vaccines can cost a lot of money if you don’t have insurance or can’t afford additional costs. But it doesn’t mean that you have to give up on vaccines which are essential.

There are some ways for you and your family to get low-cost or free vaccines.

The Vaccines for Children Program (VFC) is providing free vaccines for children under age 19 who qualify for Medicaid, don’t have insurance or can’t cover additional insurance costs, and are Alaskan Native or Native American.
Vaccinations are provided by federal-funded health centers, and the costs vary based on your income. You can search for local health centers on the website for Health Resources and Services Administration.

You can also get information from your state’s health department on getting low-cost or free vaccines. The U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) offers an online directory of state health departments.

Check out to see if schools, local community centers, or places of worship offer vaccinations.

There are a lot of vaccine-related resources on the HHS website, including a searchable database to find places that offer vaccines in your city or ZIP code.

Syppel-Thomokins says – “Your local pharmacist can play an important role in keeping you and your family healthy, all dependent on your state’s laws.’’

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Petar Jangelovski
Petar Jangelovski

Petar Jangelovski A former ESL teacher who enjoys reading books and going out with friends. Experienced and creative translator, and once upon a time a poet, who wrote Shakespearean-like sonnets.

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