Should you pay for a flu jab at your local pharmacy or chemist ?

For the last 2 years I have paid to have a flu jab at a local pharmacy. This is a fairly recent service that some pharmacies have been offering and I welcomed it initially, having had a particularly bad bout of flu several years ago which left me ill on the sofa for a good week and took several weeks to fully recover from.

Having worked previously in the NHS for many years I had been eligible for flu vaccination through my occupational health service or my local GP. When I changed jobs this was no longer part of the package and I went for several years with no flu vaccination. I had asked at my local GP surgery if I could pay to have a flu vaccine, but this was not a service that they were offering.

I was very excited last year when I spotted a pharmacy in a nearby town offering the service so I went along and booked an appointment to have the jab later that day. The young pharmacist was very nervous and had clearly not done many of these (I later found out I was his first paying customer ) He encountered a problem getting the air bubble out of the syringe and after trying several pre-loaded flu vaccine syringes he advised me he would be unable to do the flu vaccination, and that I would have to come back another day when they had more of the pre-loaded syringes in. I returned several weeks later  as I thought by this time he would have gained in expertise, but he was still very nervous, but did thankfully manage to successfully give me the vaccination. He later told me that I was his second successful flu vaccine paying customer as the uptake had been very poor in the area. He had been on a training course to learn injection techniques but I wonder how much practice he had had on live humans (it is very different to injecting an orange or dummy)

This year I saw another local pharmacy was offering the flu vaccination service and decided to give it another go, as last year I did not succumb to flu. I booked an appointment and yesterday I had my vaccination. It was a very different experience but unfortunately not in a good way. The pharmacist rushed the injection and in fact injected me with a fairly large amount of air which alarmed both her and me (although I did not let on to her that I knew what she had done & she worryingly did not admit it to me) She then repeatedly asked me if i was ok and if I felt faint. I felt quite anxious following the experience but thankfully it is now 24 hours later and I am fine-touch wood apart from a large bruise & egg sized swelling on my upper arm ! (not usual after a flu injection)

This experience set me to thinking & concluding the following;

  • I wish that I had not gone to the pharmacy for the injection. I do not feel the staff that I dealt with this year or last year were competent enough at performing the injections unsupervised
  • I wish that GP’s would offer this service to their patients for a fee-the nurses at the local surgery are fully trained & are great at giving injections (they get plenty of practice)
  • I have had many injections over the years and these 2 were by far the worse experiences that I have had, and have put me off going to a pharmacy again for an injection
  • What training does a pharmacist have before they are allowed to administer injections to the public ?
  • Do the pharmacists feel competenet to be doing the vaccines or is it something they are being pressured in to by the company ?

If you do decide to have a flu shot at your local pharmacy it may be worth asking the pharmacist who is going to administer the shot the following:

  • How many vaccines they have given this year ?
  • How much training did they receive on live patients ?
  • How many flu vaccines have they given this autumn 2011 ?
  • Would they have a vaccine in a pharmacy or would they rather go to a practice nurse ?

I welcome your comments