Wondering how you'll find time this year to get a flu shot? For many Canadians, receiving the flu vaccine is as easy as going to their neighbourhood drugstore.
Pharmacists have always been an important part of Canada’s healthcare ecosystem. But in recent years, five Canadian provinces – namely Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Ontario and Nova Scotia – have expanded the role of pharmacists to include the ability to inject the flu vaccine.
For Canadians living in these provinces, this move translates to greater convenience and a higher likelihood that they’ll get their flu shot each year.
“It’s really important that all Canadians over the age of six months be immunized against influenza,” says Valerie Kalyn, a Calgary-based pharmacist and owner at Shoppers Drug Mart, which offers flu vaccination at more than 1,000 stores in the five provinces that allow pharmacist-administered flu shots. “As frontline workers who deliver health care right in our communities, pharmacists can really make a difference in encouraging more people to come in and get their flu vaccine.”
The community-based location and extended business hours of pharmacies mean people don't have to go out of their way or take time off work to get a flu shot. At Ms. Kalyn’s Shoppers Drug Mart store in Calgary, for instance, customers can get a flu shot between eight a.m. to midnight, seven days a week.
“We also do consults for people who have questions about the flu vaccine,” she says. “We want to make sure that if you have any concerns, any questions at all about the flu shot, that we address them before we give you the shot.”
By offering flu vaccination services, pharmacists are also helping to reduce the cost of delivering health care to Canadians. In Ontario alone, flu vaccinations at drugstores are expected to contribute to health system savings of at least $143 million over five years, according to the Ontario Pharmacists Association.
Some people may not be comfortable with the idea of going to a pharmacist for a flu shot. But there's no need to worry, says Ms. Kalyn as Pharmacists must complete a certificate program developed jointly by their provincial pharmacist association, regulatory agency, and government.
Pharmacists must have the ability to assess customers’ suitability for the flu vaccine, says Ms. Kalyn.
“There’s a lot of in-depth knowledge and skills that we need to acquire before we can be authorized to give a flu shot," she says. "But we're trained, and we're ready."