Should You Get Vaccinated at the Pharmacy?

Putting off getting your flu shot or other vaccines because you don’t have time for a doctor’s appointment? The next time you pick up a few things at the drugstore or grocery store, consider updating your vaccinations at the pharmacy.

Pharmacists are trained in immunization technique and are well versed in how to administer shots, according to Carmen Catizone, D.Ph., executive director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP).

“In fact, today, more patients are receiving their vaccinations from pharmacists than other healthcare providers,” says Catizone.

CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, and other chains and some independent pharmacies offer more than the flu shot—they typically also administer other immunizations recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including vaccines against pneumonia, polio, shingles, Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), and varicella (chicken pox).

In addition, many also offer travel immunizations for meningitis, typhoid, yellow fever, and other diseases.

An added perk: CVS, Walgreens, and other chains offer loyalty programs (it’s free to sign up) that earn you reward points towards discounts on other store purchases. Sign up online or at the pharmacy counter.

Tips for Getting Vaccinated at the Pharmacy

You’ll no doubt remember if you’re due for your annual flu shot. But for other vaccinations, it’s a good idea to check with your physician about what immunizations are recommended for you based on your age and medical history.

Pharmacists in all states are allowed to administer a long list of vaccinations, but state laws vary—for example, you can’t get hepatitis vaccines at the pharmacy in New York. Also, in some states, certain vaccines require a doctor’s prescription. When in doubt, check with your pharmacist.

According to Catizone, the following tips can help getting your vaccinations at the pharmacy go smoothly:

  • Consider making an appointment. Most pharmacies don’t require it, but it’s a good idea if you need several vaccinations or want to avoid a wait. If you do drop in, choose a less busy time—not Monday morning or Friday afternoon, for example, when pharmacies tend to be bustling. You’ll need to sign a consent form, which includes questions about your medical history and authorizes the release of information to your healthcare provider and insurers.
  • Don’t leave right away. A needle stick can leave some people light-headed and, on rare occasions, can trigger allergic reactions. Wait for a couple of minutes to make sure you feel fine, and let the pharmacist know right away if you feel dizzy, nauseous, have trouble breathing, or experience any other symptoms.
  • Ask about side effects. Redness and soreness at the injection site are normal. Ask if there are any other common side effects you should be aware of, such as a fever.
  • Update your records. Ask to have the information forwarded to your primary care doctor to update your medical record.

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