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CVS, Walgreens to offer free flu shots to unemployed

CVS and Walgreens, the nation’s two largest drugstore chains, will soon offer millions of dollars of free seasonal flu shots to unemployed and uninsured people.

CVS Caremark Corp. will offer 100,000 free shots valued at about $3 million to job seekers, the Rhode Island-based company said yesterday in a statement. Walgreen Co., based in Illinois, will distribute $1 million in shots to the uninsured through its 7,000 U.S. stores and clinics.

Job seekers are among the least likely to get flu shots, with 34 percent of them receiving shots last year, compared with 49 percent of the overall population, according to a CVS study.

Seasonal flu shots don’t protect against the H1N1 virus, or swine flu. Vaccines for that virus will be distributed this fall by the U.S. government.

CVS and Walgreens will make seasonal flu shots available to all consumers starting today. Walgreen will charge $24.99 for injections and $29.99 for a nasal spray version, according to a statement.

Drugstores and store pharmacy departments are beginning their flu shots several weeks early this year. They say they expect greater demand for the vaccine because of news about the swine flu strain. According to a Walgreen survey, 50 percent of consumers plan to get shots this year, up from 43 percent in 2008.

Starting Sept. 15, CVS said it will hold more than 9,000 "flu shot clinic events" at its stores, where pharmacists or other health care workers will give the injections. It will give the shots at all 500 of its walk-in MinuteClinics.

CVS spokesman Mike DeAngelis said Monday that "not all but most of the Long Island stores" will have the flu shot clinics. He said there are about 120 stores on Long Island.

Wal-Mart will start giving flu shots in mid-September, a spokeswoman said. Rite Aid said it will begin offering shots Tuesday.

With Gary Dymski and AP