CVS Offers Free Flu Shot with $30 Puchase

Just in time to send the kiddies off to school, CVS (NYSE: CVS) is offering a free flu shot – providing you spend a little cash while you’re there, of course.

Available at every CVS pharmacy and MinuteClinic stores, the flu shots will be provided at no charge to consumers who buy $30 worth of products from Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG) such as Bounty paper towels, Pampers diapers and Tide laundry detergent. The promotion seems to be perfect for the back-to-school season, when parents already have a big hassle with buying clothes, shoes and other school supplies.

The stores will offer walk-in appointments or an online “My Flu Shot Scheduler” to an appointment in advance for even more ease for customers. The online site shows store locations along with available appointment times.

Earlier this month – and likely the reason for the whole idea – Walgreens (NYSE: WAG) began offering flu shot coupons at its stores. The retailer is offering the gift cards for $29.99 at all of its 7,500 drugstores as well as on its website,  In 2009, the Illinois-based company provided more than 7 million flu vaccinations.

The largest in the Drug Stores industry (based on market cap), CVS is clearly intended to hold off Walgreen’s attempts at cornering the flu shot market. Both stores are hoping for an added bottom-line boost, as stock prices for the pharmacies are having serious issues, although CVS shares have dramatically outperformed WAG stock in 2010. (Just happy to be included near the Big 2, Rite Aide (NYSE: RAD) has been in a steady downward spiral since mid 2007). Walgreen’s stock is down some -21.5% since January, and CVS stock is down -15.80% year-to-date against the Dow’s -3.7% and S&P’s -5.75%. Both stores suffer from poor front-of-store sales – the non-prescription purchases, that is.

With 100 million to 150 million vaccines shot in the arms of Americans every year, this new push could be one way to help profits. This year, the flu shot vaccination will cover three strains of influenza, including the 2009 H1N1 strain, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The shots do not, however, include anything to prevent you from avoiding the store altogether until you either get sick again or need a passport photo.  So the drug store chains better hope they have another trick in the works to prop up sales down the road.

As of this writing, Burke Speaker did not own a position in any of the stocks named here.

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