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Getting your flu shot in B.C. will be different this year. Here's how

Young woman getting flu shot. (via Getty images)

While there's a high demand for flu shots every year, B.C. pharmacists say the demand will be much higher heading into the fall.

With heightened awareness of respiratory illnesses because of COVID-19 and 2 million doses of publicly funded flu vaccines available in B.C. this year, the British Columbia Pharmacy Association expects there to be a higher demand for flu shots.

British Columbians planning to get their flu shot from pharmacies this fall should expect a different experience, as pharmacists are adding additional precautions to protect against COVID-19.

Some of these changes will include the requirement at many pharmacies that you book an appointment for a flu shot well in advance, rather than walk-in.

“With COVID-19, there’s an expectation that B.C. pharmacists will deliver more shots because of the increase in demand,” said 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 2020, patients will need to book their appointment before heading to a pharmacy. In the past, many pharmacies offered walk-ins or even host flu shot clinic hours, where patients have come in at a designated time, knowing a pharmacist is available for those hours to administer the shot.

"We expect to schedule most of our patients through appointments," says pharmacist Lisa Le, pharmacy manager at YYoung Pharmacy in Vancouver. "We are also planning on approaching nearby businesses to see if they would like us to offer flu clinics at their locations, where there may be more space for social distancing."

This year, patients will be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 and should expect to answer questions so a pharmacist can determine whether they are eligible for the publicly funded flu shot.

Feeling anxious about getting your flu shot?

Pharmacists are asking for British Columbians to exercise patience as they prepare their pharmacies to keep people safe. That said, the association says that this year will be an important one to get your flu shot - even if you've had one before. 

Health experts don’t know exactly what it will look like having two viruses – the flu and COVID-19 – circulating at the same time this fall, but it could be “dangerous.”

That’s why getting a flu shot this fall is “more important than ever,” according to Dr. Ran Goldman, a professor at UBC’s faculty of medicine and pediatrician at BC Children's Hospital.

Once someone has a viral infection, their immune system is reduced to a point where they can catch other infections, said Goldman, so, someone with the flu could catch COVID-19 – and vice versa – or catch both viruses at the same time, based on early reports from China.

Furthermore, a viral infection could also expose the immune system to a bacterial infection, putting people at an even higher risk of complications, including pneumonia or blood infections.

Pharmacists were on the frontline in the spring with the first COVID-19 outbreak with many patients visiting their local pharmacy rather than doctors’ offices or walk-in clinics. To keep everyone safe during an expected second wave this fall, pharmacists are asking British Columbians not to visit the pharmacy if they have symptoms of COVID-19 like fever or cough.

- with files from The Canadian Press

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