Some New Brunswick pharmacists say they’re seeing a spike in demand for the flu shot this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Peter Ford, a pharmacist and owner of Ford’s Apothecary in Moncton, said demand for the seasonal flu shot at his pharmacy is up more than 200 per cent.
“A lot of people have not had flu shots in 20 years or 30 years or ever and this is the first time for some people but they are scared,” said Ford.
Anticipating a spike in the number of people looking to get the now free vaccination amid the pandemic, Ford said he ordered five times more vials than normal this season.
Even with the increase in demand, Ford said he isn’t concerned there will be a shortage of doses.
According to the New Brunswick Department of Health, the province has ordered its largest number of shots to date at 400,000 vials, which is a 25 per cent increase over last year.
Ford says the responsibility of administering what is expected to be an unprecedented number of flu shots is falling primarily on pharmacists.
“A lot of doctors are practising remotely so they are not in an office,” he said.
According to the New Brunswick Pharmacists Association executive director, Jake Reid, the province is providing pharmacists with consultation support and has issued personal protective equipment (PPE) to pharmacies.
“That has been terrific and that PPE distribution is going on right now,” said Reid.
However, pharmacists have incurred added expenses that the association says are not being covered by the province, he said.
“If they do a drive-thru, if they set up a tent outside, for instance, to keep the rain off of people, those are at their own cost,” said Reid.
Reid said pharmacists are also getting paid less than physicians for administering the shots, which is something the association would like to see addressed by the province once the pandemic is over.
“If you provide the exact same service then you should be remunerated equitably,” he said.
For now, he said pharmacists are just working extra hard trying to do their part to protect the public and provide people access to getting the flu shot, especially amid COVID-19.
“That will also decrease the burden on our emergency service, which, quite frankly, we need.”