As Fall approaches, VA health care providers are preparing their annual fight against flu. “Flu Teams” are busy putting up posters, sending out notices and printing handouts that promote the same message – flu infection is serious and that VA staff and Veteran patients 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, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) orders almost 2 million doses of flu vaccine annually to be administered to VA patients and employees at VA medical centers and Community Based Outpatient Clinics. Flu shots are the cornerstone of their prevention efforts and are provided free. In addition to vaccination, their prevention strategy includes educating the VA community of the importance of hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and of course, staying home when sick.
VHA teamed up with national retail pharmacy Walgreens to provide free flu vaccinations for enrolled Veterans through the VA Retail Immunization Care Coordination Program. This partnership offers greater access to flu vaccine, and as a result tens of thousands Veteran patients have received flu shots at a local Walgreens. This flu season, the partnership between VA and Walgreens continues through March 31, 2017. All Veterans who are currently enrolled in VA care may walk into any of the over 8000 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/VHA partnership provides increased access to no cost flu vaccinations. Last year 29 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 free flu shot.
- To find your local VA, visit http://www.va.gov/directory/guide/home.asp.
- To locate a Walgreens store near you, call 800-WALGREENs (800-925-4733), or go to Walgreens.com/findastore.
- To learn more about the partnership, call 1-877-771-8537 or visit http://www.ehealth.va.gov/Immunization.asp.
- To get more information on flu and flu vaccine, visit http://www.publichealth.va.gov/flu or http://www.cdc.gov/flu.
Glenn Johnson has been with the VA since 2001 and has served as the Chief of the Communications Department for the VA Health Administration Center, the VA Chief Business Office for Purchased Care and now the VHA Office of Community Care. He is a graduate of Syracuse University and is an Army Veteran who served from 1990 to 2000 as a photographer, photojournalist and war correspondent.