A new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health finds that in the event of a flu epidemic caused by a novel virus, using pharmacies to administer flu vaccines could save thousands of lives and billions of dollars.
Millions each year already get their annual flu shots at pharmacies. In the event of an influenza epidemic involving a virus that has not been seen before, such as during the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, getting enough of the population vaccinated as soon as possible is particularly important to reduce the spread and impact of the virus. Traditional health care locations alone, such as doctors’ offices and hospitals, may not have the capacity or convenience to get enough people vaccinated.
Using a computer simulation model, the study found that adding pharmacies as locations that dispense flu vaccinations during a mild epidemic averted up to 17.1 million symptomatic cases, prevented up to 104,761 deaths and saved $1 billion in direct medical costs, $49.3 billion in productivity losses and up to $50.3 billion in societal costs (direct medical and indirect costs combined). In a more severe epidemic, adding pharmacies averted up to 23.7 million symptomatic cases, prevented up to 210,228 deaths and saved $2.8 billion in direct medical costs, $97.1 billion in productivity losses and $99.8 billion in overall costs.