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B.C. pharmacists gearing up for busy flu season

Click to play video: 'Flu season will hit Canada hard this winter: experts' Flu season will hit Canada hard this winter: experts
WATCH: Scientists have predicted that a nasty flu season is headed for North America – Oct 3, 2017

B.C. pharmacists are gearing up for what is expected to be a busy flu season.

Health authorities across the province are already warning of a challenging year, after countries in the southern hemisphere grappled with one of their worst flu seasons on record over their winter months.

READ MORE: All signs point to a bad flu season: Fraser Health

The BC Pharmacy Association now says pharmacists around the province are preparing to dole out more than half a million vaccine shots to British Columbians.

“It’s easier to just walk into your local pharmacy than it is to book an appointment with your doctor, wait in the waiting room, wait in the doctor’s office and basically take a whole day off to get your flu shot when you can just take 15-30 minutes out of your day,” said pharmacist Jamie Wigston.

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The organization is now ramping up a public information campaign to remind British Columbians that getting the shot at a pharmacy is an option.

WATCH: Health officials warn of ‘severe’ flu season

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Health officials warn of ‘severe’ flu season – Oct 18, 2017

Health officials are preparing for three key virus strains this year, but are particularly concerned about a variation of H3N2, which is known to be particularly troublesome for older patients and to lead to higher rates of hospitalization.

That same strain caused big problems three years ago when it was mismatched with the year’s vaccine combination; this year, it is also not an exact match.

However, even with an inexact match, the BC Centre for Disease Control (BC CDC) is encouraging people to get the shot as early as possible, and by late November at the latest.

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READ MORE: Here’s why Canada may be in for a miserable 2017-18 flu season

Wigston said specially trained pharmacists can help the public to decide whether they’re at flu risk and whether the shot is the right decision for them.

“For a lot of people that might not have even thought about getting the flu shot, when they come in to fill their regular medications, we can just approach it with them,” he said.

“[We] tell them, ‘While you’re waiting for your medication, do you want to get a flu shot?’ And a lot of the time, they’ll just be like, ‘Sure. Why not?’ So you’re getting a lot of these people who might not have ever thought about getting one.”

Fraser Health has already begun to report flu outbreaks in some nursing homes, with the peak of the season expected to arrive in December and January.

-With files from Carmen Chai

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