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Flu wars: Which pharmacy chain is offering the cheapest jabs?

As multiples slash private flu vaccine prices – or even offer them for free – what is the cost to independents?

Large pharmacy chains have become locked into a private flu jab price war, with several of the multiples cutting their prices throughout the season.

 

Meanwhile, there have been warnings that independent pharmacies will not be able to "absorb" the costs required to offer patients similar deals.

 

Topping the list of pharmacy companies offering the cheapest flu jabs, Well Pharmacy announced on Monday (January 9) that it is offering its private flu vaccine for free to all patients over 18, even if they do not fall under one of the eligible NHS groups.

 

Read more: Well offers free private flu jabs to all over-18s as hospital admissions rocket

 

Well previously charged £15 for its flu jab before slashing the price to just £10 in December.

 

It is now being offered free to adults aged over 18 “while stocks last”, according to the multiple.

 

And C+D reported last week (January 4) that both Superdrug and Boots had opted to drop their flu vaccine prices to under £10.

 

Boots chose to reduce the price of its private winter flu jab from £16.99 to £9.95 just before Christmas (December 23), while Superdrug followed in hot pursuit by cutting its price to just £8.99.

 

Read more: Superdrug and Boots drop flu jab price to under £10 as hospital cases spike

 

Superdrug told C+D: “The pricing will remain in place until the end of the flu season and Superdrug’s vaccination service.”

 

And Boots confirmed it would lock in its £9.95 flu jab price until March 31.

 

In November, Asda gave every patient who booked a private flu jab with the supermarket – then priced at £9.98 – £2 back in their ‘cash pot’ to be spent as they wished.

 

A month later, it dropped its flu jab price from £9.98 to £4.98, saying that the decision came “at a crucial time in the winter season when cases are high”.

 

Read more: Asda slashes flu jab cost by half following 'rapid rise' in cases

 

Supermarket giant Tesco is appealing to Clubcard holders with its offer: £11 to non-Clubcard holders and just £5 for those with the card.

 

Rival Morrisons is holding firm, however, with its private flu jab retailing at £10.

 

Lloydspharmacy is offering its private flu jab for £12 and Rowlands Pharmacy has priced its own offering at £14.99 for those aged two and over.

 

Flu vaccines are still free to those in eligible groups – the over-50s, those with certain health conditions, pregnant women, those in long-term residential care, those who receive a carer’s allowance or those living with someone with a weakened immune system.

 

 

Can independents compete?

 

  

Gurinder Singh, a community pharmacist and lecturer in pharmacy at Reading University, told C+D that price reductions were “great for patients to hear about”.

“This will hopefully allow those who didn't get flu jabs in the first instance to get them now,” he said.

But he pointed out that while larger pharmacy chains will be able to “absorb” the costs of offering cheaper vaccines, independents do not have this luxury.

He said: “Vaccination[s] will come at a cost and the large multiples might be able to absorb this. But at a time where pharmacies are already struggling financially, this is not good news for independents.”

Read more: Flu jabs: Pharmacies top 2021/22 record two months before end of season

He continued: “With the rise in flu cases, I would urge the government to consider reimbursing pharmacies to allow free access to flu jabs for all patients.”

Meanwhile, superintendent pharmacist at Bedminster Pharmacy in Bristol Ade Williams told C+D he had read that Well was giving away free jabs and multiples were slashing costs.

“When those particular multiples have the ability to do that, that is admirable,” he said.

He wishes that this approach could be adopted by all pharmacies to ensure that patients “who struggle to get vaccines” can get the protection they need at a time when the NHS is “stretched”.

He continued: “I know many independents would love to be in a position where that sort of magnanimity was something they could do, but the reality is far removed from that.”

Read more: ‘It’s a win-win!’: Are pharmacy student vaccinators the future?

Mr Williams’s pharmacy hasn’t offered very many private flu vaccines this season due to a “massive uptake” in free NHS jabs.

“Because a lot of our population are more vulnerable, we’re focussing on encouraging those who are vulnerable and hesitant and [have] prioritised that…so we haven't had any spare capacity for the private service,” he said.

Similarly, manager of Heath Pharmacy in Halifax Amanda Smith said her team would not have had the “capacity” to compete with other businesses to use up their stock of jabs for under-65s.

She told C+D: “We are nearing the end of the main flu-jabbing season so I think most pharmacies will have used up the majority of their stock. We are currently on our last box of the under 65s vaccines so we wouldn’t need to compete with anyone to use them up.”

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