In lieu of the many unknowns this year, pharmacists are doing their part to ensure that the flu shot is accessible to everyone.
Paul Bowman, of Bowman’s Pharmacy, explained that this year presents many hurdles for those delivering the flu shot. There will likely be higher numbers of individuals seeking the shot, and social distancing measures must be maintained.
Many pharmacists and doctors are seeking alternative spaces for delivery, such as community rooms or drive-through clinics.
“I'm planning on hiring a larger community room, away from the pharmacy, that will allow me to do sort of a mass clinic. I know some doctors are contemplating park to call in, or drive through clinics, just to make it easier to socially distance,” Bowman said.
As pharmacies and doctor’s offices work to figure out how they will operate this flu season, there may be increased wait time. It is unknown if shots will be walk-in or appointment based, and this may depend on if you are seeking the shot from a pharmacist or family doctor, but Bowman stressed that every precaution taken is in the public’s best interest.
“Pharmacies in New Brunswick have been able to offer immunizations since 2014. We have certainly seen an uptake over the years because of the convenience factor… For those that don’t have a family doctor, a community pharmacy is an excellent place to be able to get that done.”
It’s important to get the flu shot early in the season to build immunity; Bowman recommended October or November as the peak of flu season is usually January to March. In New Brunswick, the flu shot is universally available this year, meaning that it is free of charge to everyone.
One concern facing the public this year is how to tell the symptoms apart for a cold, flu, or COVID-19.
“Unfortunately, a lot of the symptoms between COVID-19 and a common cold do overlap, and there's a lot of symptoms that cross all three which can sometimes make it difficult to distinguish between each illness, so we are anticipating some issues with that in this upcoming flu season,” Bowman explained.
Pharmasave has created a chart to help distinguish between the three illnesses, but Bowman stressed that if individuals are showing any potential symptoms of COVID-19, it is imperative that they call in advance and take appropriate precautions.
“It’s important to decipher that the flu vaccine isn't going to help against COVID-19 because it is a separate virus and the flu vaccine will not be effective… The best thing we can do to try and mitigate getting sick this year is to get the flu shot.”