According to the Chicago Sun Times pharmacy giant Walgreens will offer flu shot gift cards for the upcoming flu season. According to Walgreens, the gift cards are their attempt at increasing the number of people getting the flu vaccine this year.
Walgreens Flu Shot Gift Card: Walgreens Motivation
Why is Walgreens offering the flu shot gift cards? Walgreens executive vice president of pharmacy Kermit R. Crawford explains Walgreens motivation this way. “While millions of Americans are diligent about getting a flu shot every year, gift cards may also help those who might not otherwise take the initiative to get a flu shot. With these gift cards, you can help protect those closest to you.”
Walgreens Flu Shot Gift Card: How Does it Work?
The flu shot gift card retails for $29.99 and is available for purchase at all 7,541 Walgreens locations in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. They are also available with free shipping online at walgreens.com. The Walgreens flu shot gift cards are only redeemable at Walgreens pharmacies and Take Care Clinics inside their stores that administer flu shots.
The Walgreens flu shot gift card is redeemable for only one flu shot and can be used for either the traditional or the preservative free flu vaccine. The gift card cannot be used for the inhaled flu vaccine or any other types of vaccines offered by Walgreens.
So here’s how it works. You purchase the Walgreens flu shot gift card for yourself, a friend or family member. The person redeeming the flu shot gift card brings the card to any Walgreens pharmacy offering flu vaccines. The gift card is then presented in lieu of payment for the flu vaccine.
Walgreens Flu Shot Gift Card: Flu Vaccines are Big Business at Walgreens
Walgreens is the largest retail provider of flu vaccines in the U.S. They have approximately 24,000 individuals certified to immunize throughout their 350 Take Care Clinics which are located inside their drugstore locations nationwide. Walgreens administered nearly 7 million seasonal and H1N1 flu shots last year. Flu vaccines are a big deal for Walgreens bottom line. Though they offered free flu shots last flu season to certain groups, the vast majority of people getting flu vaccines at Walgreens paid full price.
Walgreens has marketed itself as the immunizer of choice for the unemployed and uninsured. Last year Walgreens offered free flu shots to the unemployed and uninsured as well as free H1N1 flu shots. The approximate cost of the free shots Walgreens administered during the 2009-2010 flu season? Nearly 1 million dollars. There has been no word of such a plan this year. The flu shot gift card seems to be Walgreens substitute for last year’s free shots. Instead of offering the free shots themselves, Walgreens is banking on family and friends to buy flu shots for their loved ones.
Walgreens Flu Shot Gift Card: Criticism of Walgreens
While it is unclear how successful the flu shot gift card program will be, many are criticizing Walgreens efforts. One early criticism involved Walgreens claims that the flu shot gift card guaranteed the holder a flu vaccine. Walgreens pharmacist Melody Alexander, in an interview with WFAA TV in Dallas was quoted as saying that the purchase of the flu shot gift card “secures vaccine availability and guarantees the flu and H1N1 shot in one, even in case of shortages. We have enough vaccine to be able to take care of every customer that comes in. We will be able to give everyone a flu shot this year, yes.”
However, following an outcry from health officials and the CDC, Walgreens changed the wording on their flu shot gift cards. They removed the word “guarantee” and replaced it with the following disclaimer: “If the supply of vaccine is depleted the flu shot gift card will be honored during the following flu season for up to five years.” So, customers could end up essentially paying twice for the flu vaccine this year. If they purchase a flu shot gift card and Walgreens runs out of the vaccine, they will need to get another flu shot somewhere else.
Walgreens Flu Shot Gift Card: A Boost to Walgreens Bottom Line?
Will the flu shot gift card be a shot in the arm to the number of people getting flu vaccines or only to Walgreens bottom line? Only time, and this year’s flu season will tell. But one thing is for sure. The Walgreens flu shot gift card promises to be a real moneymaker for the pharmacy chain. When you factor in the $29.99 cost of the cards, additional purchases made by those who must visit Walgreens to redeem the cards and of course those people who will never use the purchased card, Walgreens certainly stands to profit handsomely from this new venture.
The 2010 flu vaccine is expected to be available earlier this year than ever before. For more information about the 2010 flu vaccine see 2010 Flu Vaccine: New CDC Recommendations, H1N1 Protection, Earlier Availability.