Flu shots by mail?
December 26, 2014 12:09 PM   Subscribe

Is there a way one can purchase individual flu shots by mail for personal use in the US - and if not, why? Flu shots don't seem to require a prescription, and it would seem like it would be much easier to just get it by mail and do it myself than have to wait in line at a flu clinic. (I've had to use injectable medication in the past, so self-administering a shot doesn't bother me, and the nasal mist seems especially easily administered.)
posted by I EAT TAPAS to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Here is some really good info from the CDC.

Based upon what I'm reading here are my guesses:

1. Different people need different dosages
2. Each vial of vaccine has more than one dose, this keeps the cost down, single dose injections would be cost inefficient
3. There's no real, commercial call for folks to inject themselves with flu vaccine, very few people WANT to do it themselves, and there is a learning curve for doing it
4. There may be a shortage of vaccine (this happened in 2012 IIRC) and authorities may need to ration it to folks who would be compromised due to age or health

But mostly because it probably wouldn't be profitable.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:20 PM on December 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

You need to be shown how to inject yourself, and the nasal spray has to be done right too. I wouldn't trust the general public to do it right every year, especially for people who inject only once a year-- no opportunity to get good. I inject myself every couple of weeks and I still screw up from time to time.

Injecting yourself also opens up the pharmacy to liability if you screw it up and get infected. You can't use the needle if you drop it on the floor or something, so you defacto have to ship a backup or set up a secure return for spoiled doses. People who don't already inject don't have sharps containers at home, so you'd have to set up a sharps-disposal infrastructure or secure return. And shipping a single dose to someone uses more packing and instructional resources than a big line in the pharmacy with a trained nurse doing a routine motion with supplies purchased in bulk and not repacked.

What happens to purchased but unused shots? Do you trust people to not use an expired flu shot? Do you trust them to dispose of an unused needle in a sharps container? The mist resolves a lot of these problems, obviously, but not everyone can use the mist.
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:30 PM on December 26, 2014 [8 favorites]

Pharmacists are also trained to give flu shots, so next time you're grocery shopping, you can just go there if going to a MinuteClinic is too tiresome of a wait.
posted by discopolo at 1:16 PM on December 26, 2014

also, the mist at least has to be kept refrigerated. Cold-chain delivery isn't impossible, but it's expensive.
posted by KathrynT at 1:19 PM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Aren't the people who need the flu shots most babies and elderly people? Babies can't inject themselves and elderly folks may have trouble with it, and might not have someone who can help them.

The more I think about this interesting question, the more inclined I am to call for door-to-door visits from health care workers at home and at work as a matter of routine.
posted by blnkfrnk at 1:46 PM on December 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

The mist isn't really that simple either. While the shot is a killed virus the mist is a weakened live virus, and in the places we've gone for it, have been told it shouldn't be used if you live with someone who has compromised immunity, nor can it be given to anyone over 50 or with respiratory issues. It would be hard to check on these caveats by mail. Also, it's not as if the mist is really easy to administer -- despite the euphemistic sound of the word "mist" it's not like a comfortable puff outside the nose but rather the tube is inserted way up the nostril -- not very comfortably -- and would be fairly easy for the self-administrator to drop it or mess it up, spreading the weakened live virus.
posted by third rail at 1:57 PM on December 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

I also think as a society it is a safety measure to make sure the flu shot is correctly applied.
posted by nickggully at 3:45 PM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another reason for not letting people self-inject is that you can make sure they look at least decently healthy. Getting it when you're already running a fever means that it might not be as effective.
posted by Trifling at 3:58 PM on December 26, 2014

Self-injecting really freaks some people out (I'm a certified immunizer, and I wouldn't self-administer my flu vaccine).

Pharmacists administering vaccinations in pharmacies are (at in least in CT) doing so under a standing order with a physician. Though you may not see it, a prescription is generated for each vaccination given.

Also, individual people are probably not set up to handle allergic reactions (not having an EpiPen, for example).
posted by smangosbubbles at 8:40 PM on December 26, 2014

FYI, I walked into a CVS, asked for a flu shot at the pharmacy, got one and was out the door in 15 minutes. You don't have to wait for a special clinic.

(Agreed though that we should have more power to self administer medications.)
posted by metasarah at 4:32 AM on December 27, 2014

« Older Short story about a one-armed girl and a bully   |   Fun activities for a family of nerds in Montgomery... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.