Interior Health has announced that it will not be holding flu shot clinics this year, due to precautions around COVID-19, but is urging people to get vaccinated against the flu this fall, and working with community partners such as pharmacies to ensure that anyone who wants a flu shot can get one.
However, getting your flu shot at a community pharmacy this year will be different from past years, when many people were able to walk in and get vaccinated whenever it was convenient. More safety measures, pre-screening, and appointment bookings are planned this year, as protection against COVID-19.
The additional precautions mean British Columbians who are planning to get their flu shot from pharmacies this fall should expect a different experience, including the requirement at many pharmacies that you book an appointment for a flu shot well in advance, rather than just drop in.
“With COVID-19, there’s an expectation that B.C. pharmacists will deliver more shots because of the increase in demand,” says Geraldine Vance, CEO of the BC Pharmacy Association. “Pharmacists will be putting in more time and resources to keep patients and themselves safe during COVID-19.”
In the past, many pharmacies have offered walk-in service or posted hours for special flu shot clinics at set times. This year, patients should expect to book an appointment or call their pharmacist first before coming in, and might be screened for symptoms of COVID-19.
Jon Wiesendahl, pharmacist at Ashcroft I.D.A. Pharmacy, says they are still working out what this year’s flu shots will look like. The pharmacy expects to have at least one flu shot clinic, and appointments will probably be necessary at other times.
He adds that the vaccine is expected to be available in the first week or two of October.
Many British Columbians may be anxious to get their flu shots as soon as possible, but pharmacists are asking for patience as they prepare their pharmacies to keep people safe. The exact timelines for distribution of the flu vaccine are determined by the provincial government, which also decides on the allotment of the vaccine to individual pharmacies.
With heightened awareness of respiratory illnesses because of COVID-19, and two million doses of publicly-funded flu vaccines available in B.C. this year, pharmacists expect there to be a higher demand for flu shots this fall.
“COVID-19 has us all doing a lot of things differently. That may include thinking about getting your first flu shot,” says pharmacist Lisa Le. “If you’ve never had a flu shot before, now is the time to get immunized. Not only will you protect yourself, you will also protect the loved ones around you.”
Anyone wanting to get a flu shot this year is advised to get one as early as possible, as it can take up to two weeks for the vaccine to take effect.
To see where flu shots are being offered near you, go to www.immunizebc.ca/clinics/flu. The site will be updated as information is received.