Are flu shots at the pharmacy as safe as at the doctor's office?

Saturday, January 25, 2020
Are flu shots at the pharmacy as safe as at the doctor's office?
7 On Your Side's Michael Finney looks into the safety and effectiveness of flu shots in pharmacies.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- If you need a flu shot, does it matter where you go to get it? Recently I was walking through a store and a customer asked me, "Michael, Is it safe to get a flu shot here"? I said, "I'll find out."

We don't always get our flu shots in a doctor's office anymore. CVS, Walgreens and other pharmacies are giving out millions of flu shots each year, but should they? And should you get one at the pharmacy rather than at your doctor's office?

Recently I was talking with Lisa Kroon, professor and department chair of Clinical Pharmacy at UCSF. I told her about the customer's question, and asked if that a good question in the first place.

"It is a great question," she answered. "And it is absolutely safe. I would absolutely encourage anyone considering or needing a flu shot to go to their local pharmacy."

She went on to say all of her students are trained to do the job and she assures me the flu shots themselves are identical. I heard the same when checking in with other MDs.

Over at CVS Pharmacy, I am further assured about their training.

Eleanor Wong works there and told me CVS makes sure its training is top notch and ongoing.

"They have all gone through what we call a CDC-approved immunization course in order to immunize," she tells me. "As well as a refreshment course they do annually."

We know pharmacists are medication experts, but now they are so much more. This isn't just a pharmacy: this is a medical center with pharmacists giving a variety of inoculations and keeping track of who should get what.

And that's how I ended up here in this Walgreen's chair waiting for my flu shot. In TV we call this "reporter involvement," but I want you to think of it as me being your guinea pig.

To get the shot, it takes about five minutes to fill out the form and mere seconds to get the flu shot. It did not bleed, I did not get any symptoms and that shot was more than a week ago.

My doctors are busy and their time can be better used than giving me single flu shot. It works for me too, because I am cutting out the middle man. The cost of getting my shot at Walgreen's was around $40 and my insurance company paid for the whole thing. There was no co-pay for being in a doctor's office. There is a good chance your insurance company will pick up the tab, too.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.