Ask Your Pharmacist

September 25, 2020
Q:

With all the changes put in place due to COVID-19, will I still be able to get my flu shot at my community pharmacy this year?

A:

Absolutely! Your pharmacy remains one of the most accessible locations for you to get immunized against influenza (the flu).

Canadians are more likely to get immunized against the flu this year because of COVID-19.  According to the Canadian Pharmacists’ Association, 61 per cent of Atlantic Canadians say they will definitely or probably get vaccinated this year (compared to 50 per cent who claim they did get vaccinated last season). About one in three Canadians who were not vaccinated last season say they will definitely or probably get the flu shot this year.

Vaccine supply is expected to arrive in early October. Your pharmacy will advertise specific details about how you can get your flu shot once it has arrived. Protection against influenza begins 10 to 14 days after immunization. Therefore, the ideal time to get your flu vaccine is during the months of October and November, so that you have built immunity before the arrival of influenza in New Brunswick.

Pharmacy teams across New Brunswick are committed to providing an environment where you can safely be immunized against influenza during the COVID-19 pandemic. You will notice changes this year in how we provide your flu shot. Added layers of protection, incorporating hand hygiene, physical distancing, and the use of face masks, are just some changes built into the immunization procedure. 

There will be a variety of ways to arrange to get your flu shot. Although many pharmacies will still vaccinate you on a walk-in basis, the best approach to ensure the least wait time (and exposure to the public) is to book an appointment by phone or online. Some pharmacies will have dedicated hours for walk-in immunizations, and others will offer special hours for seniors or immunocompromised patients. 

Home-visits, clinics at community halls or gyms, drive-thrus, or temporary structures built near your pharmacy are just a few options being offered for influenza immunization across New Brunswick.

You should self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms before coming to your pharmacy. Your flu shot will be delayed if you have tested positive for COVID-19 and have not been cleared by your physician. If you have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 on the day of planned immunization or if you have experienced COVID-19 symptoms within two weeks of your immunization, if you have travelled outside the Atlantic bubble within two weeks of getting your immunization, if you are living with an individual who currently has COVID-19 or has been outside the Atlantic bubble in the last two weeks, or if you are under self-isolation, please do not come to the pharmacy. Call ahead.

To minimize time spent at the pharmacy, some pharmacies may have you to submit your immunization documents electronically before you visit. Contact your pharmacy for details.

It is important to arrive for your appointment on time. Do not come early because many pharmacies will have limited capacity in the waiting areas. Wearing a community mask covering over your mouth and nose upon arrival. If you do not wear a mask, immunization will not be performed. You will be provided with hand sanitizer. Remember that wearing a mask does not replace washing your hands. Follow your pharmacy’s check-in and waiting areas procedures, which may include waiting in a designated area, waiting outside the pharmacy, or even waiting in your car.   

The pharmacist who is immunizing you will be wearing a non-surgical face mask as well with freshly sanitized hands. This is important because you will be seated less than two meters (or six feet) from your pharmacist for the injection. If you are a parent accompanying a child age five and older, please have the child seated on your lap. Lastly, remember to wear loose fitting clothing that allows easy access to your upper arm.

Things certainly will be different this season when getting your flu shot. Take pride in the fact that you are doing your part to keep yourself, your family, and your community healthy. If are unsure about the process at your pharmacy, or have any questions, your pharmacy staff will be happy to take your phone call. Enough talk, let’s do this New Brunswick!

Dr Kevin Duplisea (PharmD BSc. Pharm, BSc. ACPR) is a pharmacist at Sharp’s Corner Drugstore in Sussex, New Brunswick. His opinions expressed in this newspaper are published for educational and informational purposes only, and are not intended as a diagnosis, treatment or as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Send your questions to AskYourNBPharmacist@gmail.com.