Pharmacies and clinics in Ottawa are launching flu shots ahead of the expected busy season

The peak of the flu season is only a few weeks away and pharmacies and clinics are working hard to get as many shots in the arms as possible.

Pharmacist and owner of Gabriel Drugs, Heidi Gabriel, has given 500 flu shots in just the past three weeks.

“We’re seeing an influx of people asking for the flu shot and a lot of people are eager to get it,” Gabriel says.

Health experts say the flu season may return with a vengeance because there are fewer COVID-19 restrictions this year compared to last year, when there was little flu activity.

Some pharmacies are experiencing a supply problem with the high-dose formula for flu shots intended for seniors and those with health complications. Experts say it is still better to get the regular dose, which is very effective, instead of waiting for the high dose and possibly getting the flu.

“We see a stable supply of the vaccines; however, the high doses are in limited supply, ”says Gabriel. “But we get them on a regular basis.”

To help during the pandemic, pharmacy technicians were approved to administer COVID-19 vaccines along with pharmacists, but they have still not been approved to administer the flu shot, which Gabriel says slows things down.

“We are awaiting the approval of the Ministry of Health to give the pharmacy technicians permission to take flu shots,” says Gabriel. “When this happens, I think it will be a great help in the process.”

The CEO of the Ontario Pharmacists Association, Justin Bates, says so far that the flu vaccine has been a success in Ontario.

“We’ve given about 500,000 through pharmacy, flu shots so far,” Bates says. “Which is a good pace, if you look at last year, we made just under two million for the entire season.”

Last week, the Ontario Department of Health said COVID-19 vaccines can be given at the same time, or at any time before or after other vaccines, instead of waiting 14 days, which was the previous practice.

“Basically, you can make an appointment, get your flu shot, and if you still need a COVID-19 vaccine, we can administer it, too,” Bates said.

Ottawa Public Health’s local flu clinics begin Tuesday with four available locations right now in Ottawa. They are by appointment only and are eligible for Ottawa residents who meet certain criteria:

  • People aged six months to two years and their household members;
  • Newcomers to Canada;
  • Those without an Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP card);
  • Those without a primary care provider, such as a physician or nurse; and
  • Those who have had difficulty accessing the vaccine at a pharmacy

Doctor in the health service Dr. Vera Etches says this year’s flu season should be taken seriously and encourages everyone to get their shots.

“Getting your annual flu vaccine is an important way to protect yourself, your family and high-risk people in the community from seasonal flu,” says Etches.

There are about 4,000 pharmacies in Ontario right now where people can get their flu shot. Most of them require appointments.

Gabriel says you also need an appointment at her pharmacy, but she can make an exception if necessary.

“We understand that not everyone is computer literate, especially the seniors, so we welcome,” says Gabriel, “if I have them on hand, I will definitely welcome everyone as a walk-in if need be.”

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