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‘Never had such high demand’: British Columbians keen on flu shots amid COVID-19

Click to play video 'B.C. government orders more flu shots amid pandemic' B.C. government orders more flu shots amid pandemic
B.C. government orders more flu shots amid pandemic

Pharmacies across British Columbia are dealing with surging demand for the influenza vaccine, as flu season arrives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Provincial health officials have been encouraging as many people as possible to get the immunization, in a bid to prevent the province from facing double epidemics during the respiratory illness season.

“We’ve had such high demand this year, higher than ever before,” Gianni Del Negro, pharmacy manager at London Drugs’ Dunbar store, told Global News.

“We already have more booking appointments this year so far — and we’ve only opened booking appointments in the last week or so — compared to all the flu shots we did last year at our location.”

Click to play video 'High demand for flu shot in B.C. amid COVID-19' High demand for flu shot in B.C. amid COVID-19
High demand for flu shot in B.C. amid COVID-19

Like many pharmacies around British Columbia, London Drugs is requiring customers to book an appointment to get their vaccine this year amid COVID-19 safety concerns.

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Read more: Okanagan pharmacies preparing for higher flu shot demand

Flu shots are free for people in vulnerable groups, such as seniors, young children or the immunocompromised. They are also free for people who have regular contact with those groups.

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The vaccine costs $25 for anyone else.

Del Negro said the province has ordered about a half-million more doses of the vaccine this year than usual.

Click to play video 'Health Matters: Reasons to get a flu shot this year' Health Matters: Reasons to get a flu shot this year
Health Matters: Reasons to get a flu shot this year

“Hopefully we’ll have plenty of flu vaccine for everyone, so I recommend all individuals get their flu shot this year,” he said.

On Thursday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province’s allotment of the vaccine is expected to begin arriving at pharmacies “in the coming two weeks.”

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While there is expected to be enough shots for everyone who wants one, Henry suggested that people allow vulnerable groups to make use of in-demand bookings first.

Read more: 43% of parents would accept less rigorous testing of COVID-19 vaccine: UBC study

“This vaccine doesn’t protect you from COVID, but it does make sure you are not going to get infected with influenza, or it goes a long way to do that, which means we reduce pressure on the health care system,” she said.

“This is, if any year, the year you should get your vaccine, and it should be available in the coming weeks for everyone who wants it.”

It remains unclear how effective this year’s formulation of the vaccine will be against the flu, as health officials still do not know what strain of the virus will become dominant in British Columbia.