As open enrollment kicks off, so too does flu season. And as a wellness support provider, brokers might want to help employers line up flu shots at less expensive, more convenient places than the doctor's office.

Clearly, pharmacies have become a popular setting based on both of those criteria. A recent study published by Walgreens, which looked at the cost benefits of various vaccination strategies for employers, found that in a typical U.S. population, an influenza immunization program will be cost beneficial for employers when more than 37% of individuals receive the vaccine in a non-traditional setting, such as a pharmacy, as opposed to a physician's office.

"We're looking at a changing health care landscape where immunizations are being provided not just at physician's offices but also in other settings, primarily community pharmacies," says Michael Taitel, senior director, clinical outcomes and analytics with Walgreens. "We sought to build a model that can help employers understand the value of providing immunizations in alternate settings."

In a scenario where 50% of people are vaccinated in non-traditional settings, estimated net savings were $6 per vaccinated employee or dependent. Immunization programs targeted at high-risk individuals and administered in non-traditional settings, meanwhile, produced $83 in savings per vaccinated member.

Flu activity generally peaks in January or February, but seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October. For the 2012-2013 season, manufacturers have projected they will produce between 146 million and 149 million doses of the flu vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends that everyone age six months and older get an annual flu shot.

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