The flu shot is free for everyone in B.C. older than six months this year.
The unique circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic and the strain it has put on the health care system continue to make influenza immunization a priority.
“In any given year it’s important (to get a flu shot), because there are tens of thousands of people in Canada who die from influenza,” says Lina Ooi, a pharmacist at Pharmasave Richlea Square.
She says it’s even more important this year—for those who get very sick from the flu, the full hospitals and strain on the healthcare system may prove to be a challenge.
Ooi adds that it can also be difficult to distinguish between the symptoms of influenza and COVID-19.
“If you get any symptoms of the flu, you’d still have to go through the process of self-isolating, getting a COVID test, you might have to stay home from work and the chance of it spreading to co-workers or family members. It’s just kind of a domino effect that everyone would have to self-isolate until they get results back,” she says.
And with last year’s flu season being practically non-existent, Ooi says there’s a chance this year’s could be a bad one—particularly with more activities compared to last year, when people were staying home.
Last year, Ooi says her pharmacy administered 40 to 50 per cent more flu vaccines than in previous years, including many to first-time recipients. The demand this year has been high so far, and the pharmacy has already run out of appointments for its first batch of publicly-funded vaccines, which amounted to 600 doses. The next batch is due to arrive in the first week of November. In total, Pharmasave Richlea Square expects to receive 1,500 doses.
The province notes that pharmacies have played an important role in providing easy access to influenza vaccines since 2009. This year, influenza vaccines are available to pharmacies through a direct-distribution model. This means pharmacies are able to order vaccine directly from distributors, making influenza immunization easier and more flexible for people in B.C.
Ooi encourages people to book an appointment ahead of time, as walk-ins may not be possible like in pre-COVID years. First-time recipients can expect a sore arm and possibly a bit of dizziness, a headache or a fever.
Flu shots can be booked online through bcpharmacy.ca or immunizebc.ca/influenza
Free flu shots in B.C. this year