Local pharmacist holds free annual flu shot clinic for refugees in Scarborough

A child is given a free flu shot at a local pharmacy in Scarborough. Samantha Berdini/Global News

A pharmacist in Scarborough is helping local refugee families stay healthy this flu season.

Akil Dhirani, a local independent pharmacy owner is welcoming Yazidi and Syrian refugees, as well as members of parliament to his second-annual free flu shot clinic for refugee families.

Dhirani told Global News that he got very passionate about new families to Canada because of what he saw on TV and was inspired to help them.

Dhirani began by sponsoring a family, but after meeting more refugees through a welcome center in Richmond Hill, he wanted to do more.

“I kept on meeting more families, and then I had one [come] live with us.”

Once that happened, Dhirani realized he could help the newcomers with their health as well, and that is where the idea for his pharmacy to hold an annual flu shot clinic for refugees grew from.

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“There’s a lot of kids and it felt like the right thing to do as an independent pharmacist to be involved in their health issues,” he said.

Saturday’s event was held by Dhirani and his associates along with members of parliament such as minister of immigration refugees and citizenship Ahmed Hussen.

READ MORE: Toronto Public Health launches free flu vaccination clinics

“It’s fantastic, how can you not like this?” Rick Brennan, senior vice president of McKesson Canada, which oversees various independent pharmacies across the country asked Global News.

“Independent pharamacists do a lot in their communities and I couldn’t be more excited,” he said. “The turnout is great, Akil and his staff are doing a great job.”

A large number of families turned out to the event, where children were given the opportunity to get their faces painted along with their flu shot. Some children even came dressed up for Halloween.

“It’s a great example of a business giving back to the community,” Hussen told Global News. “This is the kind of thing that we, in government, appreciate when small businesses step up and are engaged in the community and welcome newcomers and provides these essential services.

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Dhirani said he’s been lucky enough to have friends, such as the late-MP Arnold Chan last year and his wife this year along with Hussen and Brennan, to make it a popular event.


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