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Maritimes reporting steady start to COVID-19, flu vaccine season

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Nova Scotia’s top doctor outlines fall vaccine plan'
COVID-19: Nova Scotia’s top doctor outlines fall vaccine plan
WATCH: Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang outlined the province's COVID-19 vaccine plan for the fall season on Tuesday. When booking appointments for boosters, Strang said that "these are not like Taylor Swift tickets" and there will be plenty available for all who want one – Oct 3, 2023

COVID-19 and flu vaccine season is off to a steady start in the Maritimes.

Officials say pharmacies have been bustling with people rolling up their sleeves since appointments opened earlier this month.

“When we released our first vaccine clinic, it filled up very quickly within two or three days,” says the owner of Nova Pharmacy in Halifax, Peter Jorna.

Jorna says appointments continue to open as the supply is confirmed. “Tuesday, we did 100 flu shots,” he says of the demand.

Nova Scotia’s health minister says the uptake has been “positive” so far.

“We’ve had 240,000 appointments for flu and COVID booked online,” says Michelle Thompson. “We also know about 3,500 of those vaccines have been given through the mobile clinics.”

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The Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia says there’s been a lot of interest in the high-dose flu vaccine, which is being offered to seniors free for the first time.

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“Those have been going like gangbusters, which is really great,” says CEO Allison Bodnar. “We’re seeing a very large uptake and demand for those doses. Some of our pharmacies are definitely out of supply at this point.”

Click to play video: 'N.S. top doctor urges people to get vaccinated against respiratory illnesses this fall'
N.S. top doctor urges people to get vaccinated against respiratory illnesses this fall

Bodnar says availability is good for the regular dose flu shots and COVID-19 vaccines, but offering combo appointments has been challenging.

“Just in the way the vaccine comes into the province and the way calendars have to be built,” she says. “So hoping next year we can have a little more alignment on those.”

Meanwhile, New Brunswick is also reporting a steady demand.

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The province’s health department says more than 60,000 New Brunswickers have received flu shots. More than 41,000 doses of the updated COVID-19 vaccines have been administered.

Despite the uptake, there are concerns about vaccine fatigue.

“It’s been a tough few years,” says Bodnar. “So certainly understandable that there’s vaccine fatigue out there, but still it’s the easiest and best defence that we have at this time of year.”

“Public Health is doing promotions on various social media to try and encourage people to get those vaccinations,” says New Brunswick Health Minister Bruce Fitch.

Experts also remind the public that immunity wanes with time.

“Like all adult vaccines, there’s a waning period — for COVID vaccines, it’s about six months,” explains Canada Research Chair in Aging and Immunity Dr. Dawn Bowdish.

“Almost all Canadians are more than six months out of their last vaccine. So almost all Canadians should be getting the updated booster,” she says.

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