January 3, 2013
Popular Retail Pharmacy Vaccines Paying Off for Military Health Care

Falls Church, VA—With more than a million vaccines administered through the TRICARE Retail Pharmacy Vaccination Program, which involves more than 47,000 participating retail pharmacies across the country, the program is proving to be a cost-saver for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

In August 2011, TRICARE expanded its benefit to include a full spectrum of preventive vaccines administered by pharmacists. Previously, most vaccines had to be administered by physicians’ offices and military treatment facilities.

“The response has been phenomenal and we are excited to hit this milestone in such a short period of time,” Rear Adm. Thomas McGinnis, director of the TRICARE Management Activity Pharmaceutical Operations Directorate, said in November in announcing the millionth vaccination. “Vaccines are available at participating TRICARE network pharmacies at no cost. And with more network pharmacies than McDonald’s and Starbucks combined, there is really no excuse not to get vaccinated.”

All CDC-recommended vaccinations are provided at no cost if they’re administered by a pharmacist at a participating TRICARE pharmacy.

In recognition of its efforts to increase vaccinations, the American Pharmacists Association honored the TRICARE Pharmacy Operations Directorate in 2012 with the Special Recognition Immunization Champion Award.

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) also applauded the efforts.

“We are pleased that the Department of Defense has expanded retail pharmacy’s role in administering vaccinations for TRICARE patients,” NACDS President and CEO Steven C. Anderson, IOM, CAE, said in a statement. “As the face of neighborhood healthcare, retail community pharmacies provide a number of patient services, including vaccinations, to help patients improve their health and reduce healthcare costs.”

Overall, the vaccine program is helping the DoD’s bottom line. In 2011, an independent government cost estimate showed that the retail pharmacy program would cost the Defense Health Program an additional $4 million annually, largely as a result of vaccinating beneficiaries who did not previously receive vaccines or who paid for the vaccines themselves.

Procuring the vaccines under the pharmacy program, however, has proved much less expensive than paying for vaccinations delivered in physicians’ offices—a savings of $1.5 million for 18,000 vaccinations in 2009. In addition, DoD projects savings of $600,000 per year in avoided medical expenses because of higher immunization rates.

The vaccinations most commonly administered through TRICARE’s network retail pharmacy program are seasonal flu (about 90%), pneumococcal, and shingles.

In addition to vaccinations, more than 57,000 retail pharmacies fill prescriptions for TRICARE, which is the military health care program for 9.7 million active duty service members, retired service members and their families.

U.S. Pharmacist Social Connect