TRICARE Offers Free Vaccines at Retail Pharmacies, Reduces Healthcare Costs

Flu Immunization Milestone Reached Ahead of Schedule

By Annette M. Boyle

FALLS CHURCH, VA — An unusually early start to the influenza season propelled the DoD to reach its milestone of 90% vaccination of all uniformed personnel and required civilians two weeks ahead of schedule.

Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Jimmie Davis gives a flu shot to Marine 1st Lt. Sean McCarragher aboard the USS Iwo Jima. DoD met its goal of having more than 90% of all active-duty members vaccinated against influenza by Dec. 17. Active-duty personnel and mobilized National Guard and reserve members are required to be immunized, as are all DoD civilian health personnel and others with immunizations required in their job descriptions

The ease of receiving free vaccinations at retail network pharmacies also might have boosted vaccination rates for other TRICARE beneficiaries.

In August, the Military Vaccine Agency set a goal of 100% vaccination rate for this year, with a milestone of at least 90% by Dec. 17. As of Dec. 6, 91% of active duty forces had received the 2012-2013 influenza vaccination.

Even with tightening budgets and increasing pharmacy copays, the vaccinations will continue to be offered for free in 2013, Rear Adm. Thomas McGinnis, chief, TRICARE Pharmaceutical Operations Directorate told U.S. Medicine.

While the past two years have seen fairly to very mild flu seasons, this year might be different.

“This is the earliest regular flu season we’ve had in nearly a decade, since the 2003-2004 flu season,” said Thomas Frieden, MD, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, in a media teleconference, adding that the national uptick in cases is about a month sooner than usual.

“That was an early and severe flu year and, while flu is always unpredictable, the early nature of the cases as well as the specific strains we’re seeing suggest that this could be a bad flu year,” Frieden said.

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