Canadian Pharmacists Association
Canadian Pharmacists Association

Greater demand for flu shots expected, but Canadians concerned about how they will get immunized safely

Pharmacists share concerns over vaccine, PPE availability and patient safety as they gear up for fall flu season

August 11, 2020 (Ottawa): Canadians say they are more likely to get immunized against the flu this year because of COVID-19, according to a national survey of 1922 Canadians conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights. However, they are worried about their safety and how health care providers are going to manage physical distancing requirements, personal protective equipment (PPE) supply and use, and limits on the number of people allowed in a health care setting at one time.

According to the survey, 57% of Canadians say they will definitely or probably get a flu shot this year, compared to 45% of Canadians who claim they received a flu shot last year. Moreover, 26% of those who were not vaccinated last season say they will definitely or probably get a flu shot this year, and that they are more likely to get one because of COVID-19.  Pharmacy continues to be the most likely place for immunization this upcoming flu season (41%), with 34% saying they will go to their doctor’s office.

When deciding where to get immunized this flu season, physical distancing (80%), PPE usage (80%) and limits on number of people allowed on the premises at a time (76%) are the most important considerations for Canadians.

“While the good news is that Canadians see pharmacists as the most convenient and accessible flu immunization provider, they do expect measures to be in place to protect them, such as wearing protective masks and physical distancing,” says Shelita Dattani, Director, Practice Development and Knowledge Translation at the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA).

Another concern, given the expected surge in demand, is ensuring there is enough influenza vaccine to go around. Australia and Argentina, where the flu season is already in full swing, have seen increased demand, in part because of a renewed awareness of general health and respiratory wellness caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. Many pharmacies in Australia have reported very strong patient demand, with some running out of the flu vaccine. And in Canada last year pharmacists reported delays in receiving flu vaccine, with some pharmacies even reporting shortages.

“There is no reason to think that it will be any different in Canada this fall, putting an even greater strain on pharmacy and the health care system,” says Dattani.

Pharmacists, who administered 3.2 million influenza immunizations in 2018-19, are also grappling with many of the same concerns as the public as they gear up for flu season, according to a national survey of 1200 pharmacists conducted by CPhA.

Specifically, pharmacists are concerned or very concerned about ensuring that a supply of disposable masks is available to patients if they don’t have one (79%); ensuring PPE is available for them and their staff (77%); and additional costs associated with additional cleaning measures, PPE, etc. (66%).

“Given the new reality of COVID-19, pharmacists, pharmacies, pharmacy associations and regulators are working hard to overcome these challenges to ensure that pharmacy is well-prepared for flu season,” says Dattani. “It could certainly look different, likely with more appointments booked instead of the traditional walk-in model, as well as strict adherence to physical distancing, PPE usage, limits on the number of patients in a pharmacy at once and time built-in for pharmacy staff to clean and put on personal protective equipment.”

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About the Canadian Pharmacists Association
The Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) is the uniting national voice of pharmacy and the pharmacist profession in Canada. As pharmacists undertake an enhanced role in the delivery of health care services, CPhA ensures that the profession is recognized as a national leader in health care, influencing the policies, programs, budgets and initiatives affecting the profession and the health of Canadians.