Pharmacy protocol for flu shot
December 17, 2019 10:20 AM   Subscribe

I got my flu shot the other day at a major US chain drug store. The pharmacist who administered it did something kind of odd and I am wondering if it was standard procedure or if my nagging discomfort is at all justified.

I filled out the paperwork, then sat in the waiting area. The pharmacist (a younger guy) came out, told me it would be a few minutes, went in the little room with the stuff, then *closed the door*. A few minutes later, he called me in and the syringe was just sitting there on the table, apparently ready to go. He gave me the shot, seemingly without event, and I went on my way.

Something about the prep part is bugging me. I feel like when I’ve gotten vaccines or shots in the past the person administering it has pulled it out of the packaging and prepped it right in front of me. Now, there is a chance I am misremembering here—maybe they do prep it first out of sight...but why did the guy need to close the door behind him? My husband went to get his flu shot from the same place the next day and happened to have the same guy administer it, and he said while the guy also did the prep in the room before he called my husband in, he said the guy left the door open. Why would the guy close the door for my shot’s prep and not for my husband’s?

I realize I sound totally paranoid; I have some other life stressors going on and I think it’s put me on high alert so I’m just like “This person is a random stranger who is putting some random substance into my body and could do literally anything he wants to it” but...does this all sound like standard protocol to you for a flu shot?

(The sane part of me says “He’s new, thought he was supposed to shut the door, and was told after the fact not to do that.” The less sane part of me says “This guy is a bioterrorist and just covertly shot me up with something that will kill me.”)
posted by lovableiago to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)
Half the time if you asked me why I just closed my office door, I couldn't tell you.

Are you currently under mental health treatment? When I find myself fixating on something improbable like this, it's usually a sign that my anxiety is flaring. Might be worth (a) using whatever deescalation techniques you use or (b) talking to your doctor if intrusive thoughts persist more than a couple of days.
posted by praemunire at 10:26 AM on December 17, 2019 [4 favorites]

I had the exact same experience last week. I worked in tattoo shops for years and know my blood borne pathogens and cross contamination stuff pretty well, and have been consistently surprised at how often the basic guidelines are ignored in hospitals and doctors offices.
posted by TheCoug at 10:26 AM on December 17, 2019

I suspect closing the door / not closing the door is a red herring. I sometimes close the door behind me just out of habit and then realize that actually I want the door open or sometimes I do the opposite. Doors "call out" to be closed and one does so unthinkingly.

At any rate, if this pharmacy is one of the major chains, then just about every room in that place is covered by surveillance cameras (to prevent drug theft by pharmacists/techs), and so closing the door only hid things from you, and not from anyone else, which isn't how a bioterrorist would operate!

So I think you're good! I wouldn't worry about it!
posted by dis_integration at 10:27 AM on December 17, 2019 [4 favorites]

A bioterrorist could prep right in front of you with something that will kill you. Even an expert would be unlikely to know that until too late, it's not like they use a vial that says DETHPLAGUE on the label with a cartoon of a person with Xs for eyes.

I imagine the door is supposed to stay closed on the premise that it'll reduce the likelihood of someone literally walking up to the door and sneezing all over everything, and also because some people seriously do faint at the sight of needles.

Probably most of the times you've gotten shots, you've been waiting in an exam room and they've come in to do it there. Since this isn't really an exam room, it's a bit of an awkward shuffle. I can't even remember how exactly it worked the last time I had one done at a pharmacy, except that it was weird compared to doing it at doctor's office or at least sitting in the functional part of a clinic.

This year I have noticed several of my nearby pharmacies have set up some kind of screen with a chair on the other side, but I can't figure out if that's actually where they do the shot or if they are maybe blocking direct line of sight into the room or area where the shots are done.

You're fine, and nothing terribly untoward was done, though it would have sucked if someone had happened to walk by and see it and fainted in the middle of the cold medicines.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:30 AM on December 17, 2019 [5 favorites]

Seems fine to me. I get monthly shots and sometimes it's just sitting there ready to go, and sometimes it's not.

Who knows why he closed the door? Maybe he needed to fart and expected it to be loud.
posted by Automocar at 10:48 AM on December 17, 2019 [17 favorites]

Last two times I got a chain pharmacy flu shot I did not see the prep.

For that matter you have no idea what’s really in a given bottle of pills they hand you any time you get a prescription.

It’s not like a Steak and Shake where watching them prepare is an advertised feature: the whole system works on intensive training, certification, trust, and surveillance.
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:49 AM on December 17, 2019

Why would the guy close the door for my shot’s prep and not for my husband’s?

I did not see my flu shot prepped when I got it at the pharmacy and at the time I didn't even think I should have. If yours is like mine there is a small wait area, the door opens out and the office may or may not have files and other HIPAA protected stuff in it. My guess would be that keeping the door closed is more the norm and not keeping it open, both for privacy for you but also for other people whose stuff might be lying around as well as just space consideration reasons.
posted by jessamyn at 10:53 AM on December 17, 2019

I've only gotten a chain pharmacy vaccine once, but as I best I can recall, the shot was not prepped in front of me but back behind the counter. Maybe I could have seen it if I'd done some very weird and obvious contorting but it wasn't in clear view by any means.

This strikes me as just a thing that's going to happen sometimes when you're doing a medical thing in an area without private exam rooms, and not something to worry about too much. Not that our brains always listen to reason about what's worth a worry! But if it helps to hear it from another outside: I think if you can let this one go, you should.
posted by Stacey at 10:55 AM on December 17, 2019

Thanks all—I feel MUCH better now and will officially cross this off my “Things to Worry About” list.
posted by lovableiago at 11:24 AM on December 17, 2019 [7 favorites]

I suspect he was doing it more out of HIPPA concerns than anything else, maybe he had paperwork he had to tidy away first before you came in. Or something as simple as sneaking a quick check of his phone or messages out of sight of the boss.
posted by wwax at 11:25 AM on December 17, 2019

For what it's worth, I got the flu shot and a tetanus booster at the same time during a routine appointment and the NP said "hang on, I'll go get them", left the room and came back with capped syringes. That did not strike me as out of the ordinary.
posted by hoyland at 5:20 PM on December 17, 2019

Wife and I just got Shingrix shots. They were pre-prepped and laying on a white towel.
posted by Chitownfats at 5:31 PM on December 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Flu shot this year, at my local chain pharmacy: shot prepped behind the counter, and administered in the waiting area, while we were both standing, as the 'exam rooms' were occupied and the few chairs were taken by people waiting on prescriptions.
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:24 PM on December 17, 2019

I feel like when I’ve gotten vaccines or shots in the past the person administering it has pulled it out of the packaging and prepped it right in front of me.

That may have been a single-dose package. As far as I know, they are used for kids because they don't need preservatives when packaged that way. For adults I think they use bulk packaged vaccine that contains preservative, and that's why there is more prep involved. I'm not in the medical field, but I believe this information is accurate.
posted by Dansaman at 10:32 PM on December 18, 2019

« Older Loading $ onto Presto cards for someone else -...   |   What should I put in an exam revision kit? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.