Hope pharmacies have run out of limited supplies of Fluad, a flu vaccine for people aged 65 and older. (Shutterstock photo)

Hope pharmacies have run out of limited supplies of Fluad, a flu vaccine for people aged 65 and older. (Shutterstock photo)

Update: Doses of 65+ flu vaccine still low in Hope, after 60 more delivered to local pharmacies

Local advocate 'outraged' by shortage, pharmacists urge clients not to panic

  • Oct. 30, 2020 12:00 a.m.

Hope pharmacies are running out of the flu vaccine specifically geared to seniors, amidst an uptick in people getting vaccinated and a limited supply from the health authority.

While all three of Hope pharmacies are nearly out of the limited supplies of Fluad they’ve received, pharmacists caution people not to panic as seniors have options including taking the regular flu vaccine or waiting for another delivery.

“If they get the shot by the end of November, that’s fine, there is no need to panic,” said Mike McLoughlin, pharmacist at Pharmasave. McLoughlin said he has been told that Fraser Health will be distributing enough shots for seniors by Oct. 30.

Hope’s three pharmacies received 30 doses of Fluad each last week, and another 20 doses each this week. Nearly all of the doses have been administered.

Tarek Mahmoud, pharmacist at Fraser Canyon Remedy’s Rx Pharmacy said his pharmacy usually receives 200 to 300 doses of the 65+ vaccine each flu season. In addition to the 50 doses received this year, Mahmoud has arranged for more doses from a private source, which will cost around $27 for clients.

Mahmoud explained that seniors, as they age, produce less antibodies. Fluad helps produce 50 per cent more antibodies than the regular flu vaccines, these include Fluviral and Agriflu for ages 18 to 64 and Flulaval for 6 months to 17 years. Another flu vaccine, Fluzone HD, is being administered to seniors who are in long term care and assisted living facilities.

Fluad is the more suitable option for people 65 and older, Mahmoud said, in particular those with underlying health conditions and issues that suppress their immune systems.

Mahmoud said he is still counselling his clients who are seniors to take the regular flu vaccine if Fluad is not available.

The Hope Medical Centre, who are offering flu clinics for their patients, say they have limited doses of Fluad available.

It is unclear whether the public health unit in Hope still has doses of Fluad.

In response to questions from the Hope Standard, Fraser Health stated that the health authority “has enough flu vaccines available throughout our region for anyone who requires a flu shot, including seniors.”

The health authority did not specify whether there are enough doses of Fluad specifically, nor how many doses might be coming to the community.

“We are working hard to ensure supplies are being delivered to our community vaccine providers, such as pharmacies and physicians, as well as our public health units, as quickly as possible,” the health authority stated.

Thirty per cent of Hope’s population are 65 years or older and this number has been growing steadily since 2010, according to data from the BC Centre for Disease Control.

“I’m outraged because the most vulnerable and isolated population is actually coming in last place from getting the flu vaccine,” said Sharlene Harrison-Hinds, a volunteer with the BC Association of Community Response Networks who has been advocating for seniors in Hope for over five years.

“It’s not healthy, these people have been isolated, already are vulnerable and here we are again…the last to be considered. I guess we are disposable,” she said.

Harrison-Hinds said seniors have already been isolated during the pandemic, with some having barely left their homes since March, and the lack of this vaccine will further isolate them.

As B.C. and the rest of the country faces a second wave of COVID-19, “they’re not only prone to perhaps getting the coronavirus, they’re also having to be scared and nervous about just catching the flu. The seniors are kind of captive where they are.”

In early September, the Public Health Agency of Canada stated it expected a higher demand for influenza vaccines and had ordered 13 million doses this year compared to 11.2 million last year.

In B.C., the province ordered 2 million doses of several types of flu vaccine, up from 1.5 million last year. Within this order were 230,000 doses of Fluad.

Justine Ma, media relations officer with the provincial health services authority, says vaccines are still arriving and are distributed as soon as they come in.

“We expect to have distributed most vaccines to pharmacies, clinics, public health units etc. by early November,” she stated by email.

Overall, Mahmoud said he is seeing many people come in for a flu shot who have never done so before. “And it also got people to talk about other vaccines too, like pneumonia, shingles, Tdap [tetanus-diphtheria],” he said. “It’s actually made people a lot more aware about their health…if there is something good about COVID, that would be it.”

Read more: Flu vaccine orders up in Canada as simultaneous COVID and flu infections feared

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Here is where you can get a flu shot in Hope and the Fraser Canyon:

Hope Medical Centre: Tuesdays and Thursdays between 4 and 8 p.m. These clinics are by appointment only, and only for existing patients of the medical centre.

Hope Pharmacy: 10 a.m. to close every day, please call 604-860-2144 or get in touch on Facebook to book in advance.

Fraser Canyon Remedy’s Rx Pharmacy: Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. People can walk in and get a shot, there is no need to book in advance.

Pharmasave: Anytime during opening hours but preferably come in on Monday to Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Walk ins and bookings are accepted, call 604-869-2486 to book. Please come wearing a mask.

Boston Bar: Nov. 2 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., book in advance via Hope Public Health at 604-860-7631. Spots are booking up fast, call soon to get a spot.

Hope public health unit: Call 604-476-7087 or 604-701-4906 to book an appointment. Dates and times vary.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:emelie.peacock@hopestandard.com


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