As many as one out of two children weren't getting their scheduled vaccines against preventable diseases after lockdowns this past spring, studies indicate.
Albertsons Cos. pharmacies nationwide are stepping up to fill a gap in child wellness services created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the support of a declaration by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Albertsons Cos. pharmacies are expanding their immunization practice to serve children as young as 3 years old. Albertsons is the first grocer to vaccinate young children under the new HHS rule.
“COVID has disrupted normal life in so many ways,” said Brian Hille, Albertsons' VP of patient care services and specialty. “Another consequence is the difficulty in making routine well-child appointments, which threatens to decrease child vaccination rates. Our pharmacy teams are dedicated to the health and wellness of the communities they serve and are ready to provide this important health protection to a precious population – our children.”
Kids typically receive important immunizations – including the annual flu vaccine – at regular well-child visits with their primary care physician. Due to challenges posed by the pandemic, those visits have decreased.
Prior to administering a vaccine, an Albertsons Cos. pharmacist will review the child’s vaccine history through the state’s immunization registry. All doses that are administered will be reported to the child’s primary care provider and the state registry. The pharmacist will also ensure that the child’s parent or guardian understands that a well-child visit is still an important aspect of preventive care.
No appointment is necessary for this new service. Flu and other vaccines can be administered on a “walk-in” basis at more than 1,700 Albertsons Cos. pharmacy locations, including those in Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw's, Acme, Tom Thumb, Randalls, United Supermarkets, Pavilions, Star Market, Haggen and Carrs stores.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are encouraging flu and other vaccinations this year to stay healthy and minimize the strain on national health systems.
Albertsons Cos. pharmacies have taken heightened precautions to help keep patients who visit the pharmacy safe and protected while they pick up their prescriptions, receive immunizations or consult with a pharmacist:
Customers are required to wear masks in Albertsons Cos. stores
Pharmacy staff all wear masks and gloves, and have Plexiglas dividers at the pharmacy counter
Wellness rooms are regularly sanitized and cleaned in between patients
Social-distancing signs mark waiting areas, with hand sanitizer available at all touch points
Flu vaccine recipients will be pre-screened for COVID-19 symptoms
In addition, Albertsons Cos. pharmacists are available to help consult with patients about their specific health conditions and recommend the appropriate formulation of flu vaccine for each member of a family. For other organizations, Albertsons Cos. can also offer flu clinics on-site to ensure that all employees have access to the flu vaccine.
The flu shot is free with most insurance plans, so there's usually no co-payment unless required by the plan. Everyone who receives an immunization will also receive a coupon for 10% off their next grocery purchase, where permitted by law.