As fall approaches, VA health care providers are preparing their annual fight against influenza. “Flu teams” are busy putting up posters, sending out notices and printing handouts that promote a common message – flu infection is serious and that Veteran patients and VA staff should get a flu shot. Because receiving an annual vaccination is widely recognized as the best method for preventing disease and death related to influenza, VA orders almost two million doses of flu vaccine annually to be administered at VA medical centers and community based outpatient clinics.
Flu shots are the cornerstone of prevention efforts and are provided at no cost. In addition to vaccination, it’s also important to educate the VA community of the importance of hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and of course, staying home when sick.
This flu season VHA has again teamed up with national retail pharmacy Walgreens to provide no-cost quadrivalent flu vaccinations for enrolled Veterans through the VA Retail Immunization Care Coordination Program. This partnership offered greater access to flu vaccine, and as a result more than 70,000 Veteran patients received flu shots at a local Walgreens last year. We expect even more will this year. The partnership between VA and Walgreens continues to grow and the current vaccination period is now through March 31, 2018.
All Veterans who are currently enrolled in VA care may walk into any of the over 8,000 Walgreens nationally and the Duane Reade pharmacies in the New York metropolitan area to receive a vaccination at no cost. After presenting a Veterans identification card and a photo ID, a Walgreens pharmacist administers the vaccine and transmits that information securely to VA where it becomes part of the patient’s electronic medical record.
This program has been especially beneficial to enrolled Veterans who live in rural areas. Because many may live at greater distances from VA medical facilities, the Walgreens partnership provides increased access to no cost flu vaccinations. Last year 45 percent of the VA patients who received a flu shot at Walgreens were classified as rural or highly rural by the VA zip code map.
VA is committed to keeping Veteran patients healthy, and during flu season vaccination is the best way to prevent the spread of flu. No matter where you live, visit your local VA clinic or Walgreens to get a no-cost quadrivalent flu shot.
About the author: This article was submitted to VAntage Point by the Veterans Health Administration Office of Community Care.