With the pandemic creating renewed interest in flu shots this year, Okanagan pharmacists are preparing to meet the demand while also keeping COVID-19 safety precautions in place.
The owner of Hogarth’s Clinic Pharmacy in downtown Vernon Todd Dew said, due to the increased demand and expected changes to how the health authority provides vaccinations, his business is expecting to administer 50 per cent more flu vaccines this year than usual, around 1,200 doses.
“I actually have rented temporary office space next-door to us. We’ve got another 800 square feet where it is dedicated to the flu vaccine program,” Dew said.
Dew hopes the added space will also allow for easier social distancing.
The need to take COVID-10 precautions also means some pharmacies are no longer accepting drop-in for flu shots.
“This year we are taking appointments only just to make sure we can keep everyone spaced out,” explained Sam Nolan, pharmacist at Nolan’s Pharmasave in Vernon.
“Clients are wearing masks (and) we are having consent forms filled out ahead of time to speed up that process.”
While demand is expected to be up, pharmacists expect supply will be there.
“We’ve gotten probably almost as much as we’ve gotten in previous years already upfront so we are well supplied and able to handle as many people as can come in,” Nolan said.
Dew expects his pharmacy will get all the full 1,200 doses it is expecting over the course of the vaccine season.
However, Dew said the pharmacy doesn’t get much advance notice of the actual delivery dates.
“There is no concerns about availability. It is just the logistics of when it arrives, how much arrives,” Dew said.
“At this point we are taking bookings over the next two weeks because that is the amount of vaccine I have on hand right now…so as I get more flu vaccine I’ll be able to open up more appointments for more weeks from now.”
Interior Health said its priority is to ensure everyone who needs a flu shot gets one.
IH said more information about the local flu campaign, which is still being developed, will be available in the coming weeks.
Two million doses is enough for almost 39 per cent of British Columbians to get a flu shot.
In 2019, 1.5 million British Columbians 12-years of age or older told Statistics Canada they’d had a flu shot in the last year.
Information about where to find a local flu clinic is available here.