Take the Road More Traveled
Travel vaccines and travel-related products and services can help take your pharmacy to new places
As Americans embark on their summer vacations, many will be doing so far from home. According to the International Trade Administration (ITA), about 60 million U.S. residents travel internationally each year.
These enthusiastic travelers represent a significant business opportunity for airlines, hotels, restaurants — and also for community pharmacies. These individuals often need vaccinations, health-related information, and a wide variety of health-related supplies, all of which community pharmacies can provide.
More and more pharmacies are now offering flu vaccinations, and consumers are increasingly comfortable with the idea of receiving vaccines in a pharmacy setting. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), during the 2012–13 flu season, about 20% of adults who got flu shots obtained them at a pharmacy. That’s up from only 7% five years ago.
Common Travel Vaccines
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Yellow Fever
By offering more types of vaccines, such as travel vaccines, it is possible to take advantage of the work you’ve already done in becoming certified, undergoing training, allocating space and marketing your vaccination service.
Broadening the types of vaccines you offer provides one more opportunity to position your community pharmacy as a local health resource, helping to prevent competitors that are aggressively marketing travel vaccines from having an advantage in this area — and can provide a substantial boost to revenue.
In particular, travel vaccines are an attractive market for community pharmacies.
- Large market. Each year, about 60 million Americans travel internationally; many go to countries where vaccinations are recommended; and in many cases, it is suggested that travelers receive multiple vaccinations. For example, the CDC recommends that those visiting Mexico — the foreign country most visited by American residents[i] — receive routine vaccinations as well as four additional vaccinations.[ii]
- Cash business. Travel vaccines are generally a cash business, with customers paying out of pocket. At the time this article was published, CVS Minute Clinic prices for common vaccines ranged from $31.99 to $144.99.
- Affluent customers. The ITA report shows that average household income for overseas travelers was $106,300 in 2011. These affluent travelers have many needs that they will spend money on to prepare for their travels (more below).
Many customers rely on their provider — in this case, you and the other pharmacists at your pharmacy — to inform them about their travel-related needs and to tell them which vaccines they need and when. To satisfy your customers, you will need to educate yourself, review their vaccination records and have the appropriate reference materials available. The following resources are available from the CDC:
- Immunization schedules for children and teens
- Basic travel destination guidelines
- The Yellow Book, a reference guide for providers who advise international travelers
For example, a regional chain in the Northwest (Bartell Drugs) has positioned itself as a travel resource by posting Travel Immunization and Medication Guidelines as well as a Traveler’s Checklist on its website. This complimentary information helps reinforce the pharmacy’s image as a valuable resource for both vaccines and travel supplies.
In addition, there may be an opportunity to leverage your expertise to generate additional revenue. For example, some Walgreens and Safeway stores are offering travel consultations. For a fee, pharmacists at these chains review customers’ travel itineraries and immunization records, and provide a “custom travel report” that lists appropriate shots and medications.
Additional Revenue from Travel Health Kit Supplies
Beyond vaccines and information — and having adequate supplies of all prescription medications — travelers have other health-related travel needs that community pharmacies can meet.
The CDC recommends a “travel health kit” that includes medications for pain, fever, and an upset stomach, and medications for respiratory discomfort, such as antihistamines or decongestants. Travelers may also need anti-motion-sickness medications or epinephrine, if there is any history of allergic reactions.
Travelers should also plan to carry basic first aid tools, including bandages, disposable gloves, hydrocortisone cream, and saline eye drops, as well as sunscreen, insect repellant, and antibacterial hand wipes. Your store is the perfect place to pick up these essential items.
Getting Started on Your Journey
This combination of travel vaccines, health-related supplies and travel information provides an opportunity to position your pharmacy as a one-stop-shop travel resource. But doing so takes planning.
Planning to Offer Travel Vaccines
Before making a commitment to offer travel vaccines, it’s important to understand your state’s laws regarding which vaccines pharmacists may provide and any regulations that must be followed. Click here for an American Pharmacists Association (APhA) summary of state requirements.
The next step is to make sure your pharmacy is certified to administer these vaccines. The process can take three to six months, so advance preparation is necessary. Information about immunization training is available from the APhA. The Collaborative Education Institute’s Immunization Administration Training for Pharmacists will be offered at McKesson ideaShare 2013.
And of course, when you decide to offer any immunizations, you need to make sure you are set up to bill for them. You also need to consider ordering supplies, expecting demand for travel vaccines to peak in late spring and summer. McKesson customers can order vaccines through its online ordering platform called McKesson ConnectSM and may expect delivery within one to three days.
Promoting Travel Products/Services
Once you are set to provide travel vaccines, you need to promote your entire array of travel products and services. Make sure you are covering all the basics — such as signs at the entry and near the pharmacy, displays near travel supplies and postings on Facebook. In addition, consider posting information on your website about your focus on travel, write a blog post, and send an e-mail or direct mail notice of your travel vaccines and travel products to your current customer base.
Vaccines and More
Importantly, focusing on travel vaccines and travel-related products can be another great and relatively simple way to continue expanding the types of clinical services that your pharmacy offers, and doing so fits well with many of the products you already offer. Enjoy the journey.