September 2020 Update: In addition to availability at VA medical facilities, eligible Veterans can receive a no-cost seasonal flu vaccination through one of more than 60,000 current in-network community retail pharmacies or urgent care locations. Visit https://www.va.gov/communitycare/flushot.asp for details.
With flu season approaching, Veterans have two options through VA for getting a no-cost flu vaccination nationwide.
Like previous years, free flu shots will be given at all VA Medical Centers and Community Based Outpatient Clinics. A Veteran simply needs to visit any VA medical facility and ask for a vaccination or ask their primary care physician for a flu shot during an appointment.
Veterans can also receive a no-cost vaccination is through the VA-Walgreens partnership. There are 9,600 Walgreens pharmacies nationally. The Veteran simply needs to visit a Walgreens pharmacy and present their Veterans Health Identification Card and one other form of photo ID to receive a vaccination.
Huge increase in the number of vaccinations
Since the program’s inception in 2014-2015 the number of vaccinations has increased dramatically. The first year, less than 20,000 shots were provided; last year’s campaign delivered 104,993 vaccinations. The final cost to the taxpayer was $3,181,058.50.
Over 50% of those vaccinations given were to rural or extremely rural veterans, a notoriously underserved population. In total this partnership has delivered approximately 1.5 million no-cost vaccinations to VHA registered Veterans since 2014.
“Our partnership with Walgreens for the past five years has been a positive and effective force in the VA’s ability to meet the vaccination needs of our rural Veterans, with Walgreens providing over 325,000 vaccinations on behalf of the VA,” said Elizabeth Tyler, VA’s program manager for the Retail Immunization Program.
“We expect that partnership to grow even more strong and effective for our current 2019-2020 season with an estimated delivery of 175,000 vaccinations between August 2019 and the end of March 2020,” she said.
Another perk of the VA-Walgreens partnership is information sharing. When a Walgreens pharmacist administers the shot, the immunization information is transmitted to VA through the eHealth Exchange. The immunization becomes part of the Veteran’s VA health record. The Walgreens immunization records are automatically available for VA clinicians to review within 24 hours.
For the 2019-2020 flu season, the no-cost option is for the quadrivalent version of the vaccine only. There will be no high-dose option this year at either VA medical facilities or Walgreens.
To find your nearest participating Walgreens partner, call 800-WALGREENs (800-925-4733), or go to www.walgreens.com/findastore.
For more information about this benefit, visit www.va.gov/COMMUNITYCARE/programs/veterans/immunization.asp.
Glenn A. Johnson is the chief of Health Care Media for the VHA Office of Community Care.