Sidney senior Brad Franklin was hoping to accomplish two things on Thursday: vote and get a flu shot appointment at his local pharmacy. The voting turned out to be easy but the vaccine appointment was not.
“I must have dialled that number, I bet you 50 times between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. and couldn’t get through,” Franklin said.
So he walked there and found a lineup of about 20 other seniors also trying to book. Franklin managed to get an appointment next week but others in the line weren’t so lucky.
“I think [the province] might have anticipated as they were urging people to get flu shots, they might have anticipated this rush and cranked out the vaccine faster,” he said.
Victoria mom Naomi McCormick says she’s been trying to get appointments for her two young children for two weeks. With the COVID-19 pandemic, she felt extra urgency because last year her kids ended up in the hospital after bouts of cold and flu.
“I know the push to get us all vaccinated this year is really to decrease the burden on the hospital so the last thing I want is have both my kids in and out getting steroids like we did last year,” she said.
Because her kids are so young she has to go a health unit for the vaccine but they aren’t even open yet in Island Health.
“This is the 2020 version of trying to book the best concert right? Trying to get those concert tickets. How do I get these flu shots for my family?” she said.
Island Health says while you can book now, flu clinics will start to open next week, which is earlier than usual. In 2017 the first public flu clinic opened Oct. 30, in 2018 it was Oct. 28 and in 2019 it was Nov. 4.
Dr. Bonnie Henry says vaccine is just starting to be distributed around the province. While it comes in slowly over weeks she says there is plenty of supply and still plenty of time.
“The influenza so far, rates have been fairly low in our communities, so we’re not yet into that season, so we have time to make sure everyone who wants it can be immunized in the next few of weeks,” Henry said Thursday.
The province has ordered more flu vaccine this year than ever before, nearly two million doses will be available, you may just have to wait a few weeks to get it.
More information on the influenza vaccine from Island Health:
Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease that can lead to serious illness, hospitalization and death. Island Health said getting immunized for the flu helps protect ourselves and others around us, especially our health care workers and those who may be more likely to develop severe illness that would put them in hospital.
Flu shots are available from pharmacists (for ages five and up, some offer nasal spray for those ages two and up), primary care providers and at public health clinics. People can visit islandhealth.ca/flu to locate providers with flu vaccine in stock. They can also book their appointment at a public health flu clinic at islandhealth.ca/flu.
Island Health says those getting an influenza vaccine should bring a non-medical mask or face covering, their BC Services Card or other government identification (valid driver’s licence), and remember to wear a short-sleeved shirt. People are reminded to plan ahead to get a flu shot, as most places require booking in advance. Flu clinics follow all provincial recommendations for physical distancing, enhanced cleaning and screening for symptoms, according to Island Health.
People at high risk of serious illness from influenza and their close contacts are eligible for the free flu vaccine. This includes children aged six months to five years, seniors, Indigenous people and people with chronic health conditions. If you are not eligible, you may receive a flu vaccine for a fee through your primary care provider or pharmacist. Visit heathlink.bc.ca for more information.
Besides immunization, Island Health said people can protect themselves influenza by continuing to wash hands frequently, stay home when sick, maintain a safe physical distance or wear a non-medical face covering to reduce respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19.
Island Health distributes flu vaccine orders to pharmacies and primary care providers on an ongoing basis.
“While some pharmacies and primary care providers may use their supply more quickly than others, we will ensure all providers receive new supply as orders are submitted,” Island Health said in a release.