Random thoughts on a variety of subjects
By Sam Redman
A recent NyTImes article (which you can read here) described how a disturbing number of health care professionals including many pediatric offices were worried that there could be an absolute panic and an out of control situation when the H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine is available for distribution (which actually begins this week). But, I think that I have observed a system at work which will function quite well to solve that problem without much fanfare.
Here in Dallas, the grocery store (supermarket chain) pharmacies, WalMarts with pharmacies and the stand alone chain pharmacies (lke Walgreens and CVC), have been giving out the traditional flu vaccines and doing an amazingly efficient job of it, in spite of an unprecedented demand for the shots. Goodness, it seems as though there is one of those places virtually every few blocks. And because they are proportionately spread all over the city (and suburbs) appropriately by neighborhoods, this is an extremely efficient way to distribute without the management becoming a madhouse situation. Just remember, everyone buys groceries and drugstore items at those places every week and there is no panic for those essentials, is there? They do have a steady stream (like they have never seen in previous years) and sometimes the wait is perhaps 30 minutes, but this is really working quite well.
It’s a glimpse into how the H1N1 vaccine distribution will work here, because the increased number of people coming for the traditional vaccine has been fueled by the same media hype for the swine flu. Lots of people who show up actually think they are getting the H1N1 vaccine when they arrive and nearly all of them go ahead and get the regular shot just to be safe. Others are coming i just because they have concluded that they didn’t want to run the risk of being sick with both kinds at the same time and want, at least for now, the protection from the regular seasonal strain.
Many local doctors’ offices are simply telling their patients to just go to their local grocery or other pharmacy, because they (like the doctor in a recent NYTimes article who talked about the calls they are getting about the H1N1) say that just handling this year’s normal flu inoculations would have swamped their offices.
It seems likely that this same method and plan should work (and probably will) around the country. From my travels, I haven’t seen that Dallas is unique in relation to pharmacy location and inoculations, although some states may prohibit it being done this way; I don’t know.
If local physicians could just avoid the temptation of collecting their office visit fees for this “opportunity” and direct their patients to these already proven very efficient locations for inoculation, then the madness of providing the vaccines to the masses will be easily solved.