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TRICARE officials expand retail pharmacy vaccine program

FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- TRICARE officials are expanding the number of preventive vaccines covered at retail network pharmacies. Until now, the majority of vaccines were only covered when obtained through a physician's office.

"Vaccines are a critical part of every family's preventive health program," said Rear Adm. Christine Hunter, the TRICARE Management Activity's deputy director. "We are very pleased to offer this expanded convenience to our beneficiaries and, best of all, there's no copay."

TRICARE covers age-appropriate vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including the high-demand shingles vaccine, Zostavax. Since late 2009, TRICARE has covered seasonal flu, H1N1 flu and pneumococcal vaccines at retail pharmacies with nearly 300,000 vaccines administered to date.

The expanded program covers immunizations for measles, mumps, shingles and many other preventable diseases. To see the expanded list of vaccines available from authorized TRICARE retail pharmacies visit www.tricare.mil/vaccines.

TRICARE officials strongly recommend that beneficiaries check ahead before making a trip to their pharmacy to make sure it's part of the TRICARE network and authorized to offer the vaccines. Ensuring that the pharmacy has the needed vaccine is also advised as some, such as shingles, may be in short supply.

In addition, while all 50 states and the District of Columbia allow pharmacists to administer vaccines, individual state laws can restrict which vaccines pharmacists may administer, or may restrict based on licensing or by age of the recipient.

Beneficiaries who obtain vaccines through their regular physician do not pay copayments for preventive care such as immunizations and recommended screenings, but usual cost shares and copayments for office visits may apply.

"Expanded access to a wide variety of recommended vaccines makes it easier for beneficiaries to make good health care choices," said Hunter. "Whether we choose a military clinic or hospital, a retail pharmacy or our regular doctor, getting immunized is one of the easiest things we can do to help protect the health of our families and our community."