Getting a flu shot drive-thru style could be a possibility for some residents in Peterborough this year, according to the region’s medical officer of health, Dr. Rosana Salvaterra.
Those who’ve received a flu shot in the previous years know that crammed waiting rooms are a familiar sight during flu season.
However, COVID-19 is forcing many health care professionals to rethink the ways in which the vaccine will be administered, in order to promote physical distancing.
While Peterborough Public Health does not impose how individual practices, like pharmacies or family doctors, administer the flu shot, Dr. Salvaterra said they’ve been having weekly meetings with the practices to discuss possible solutions, such as outdoor clinics.
“We’ve identified potential sites both in the city and in the county where they may able to set up these larger scale, drive-thru clinics,” Dr. Salvaterra told Global News Peterborough on Tuesday.
“We will support them, if they want to go that way. We’ll do the communications, the promotions, we’ll support them with coolers and thermometers as much as we can.”
Dr. Salvaterra says the health unit has used this method in the past to administer the flu vaccine, especially to people with mobility issues.
On Monday, Global News Peterborough spoke with three family physician offices, who confirmed they are considering doing a drive-thru style clinic in their parking lot, with one office saying the logistics of bringing patients inside the building would be “a nightmare.”
The offices did not want to appear on record.
Meanwhile, Westmount Pharmacy on Clonsilla Avenue is considering alternative options.
“What we’re thinking is that we are going to do that on an appointment basis, so that, you know, the pharmacy doesn’t get crowded up,” said Malav Madhu, a pharmacist at the location.
Madhu says they’re planning between 15 to 30 minutes per patient, with sanitization and a change in PPE in between.
Since the pharmacy administers almost 230 flu shots every year, according to Madhu, he says they’re considering hiring another pharmacist, so to not disturb the wait times on prescriptions.
Dr. Salvaterra said the region is expecting its first shipment of vaccines next week. Just like every year, they will be distributed to long-term care homes and hospitals first, to immunize the most vulnerable.
One difference, however, is that pharmacies will now have their hands on a higher dose of the vaccine, recommended for individuals 65 years and older, which was previously exclusive to hospitals, long-term care homes, and family doctors.
“It’s a strategy to ensure that, as many as the high-risk people as possible, are able to get that higher dose vaccine,” said Dr. Salvaterra.
The health unit is expecting an increase demand for the flu shot this year. Dr. Salvaterra says there’s a “strong rationale” behind that demand, as an influx of flu cases can overburden the health care system.
“Now more than ever, we need to preserve that healthcare capacity for COVID-19 if it’s needed,” she said.
Dr. Salvaterra said it’s not possible to know whether or not the region will have enough vaccines to meet the demand.