Flu season could be bad this year, pharmacist warns
KITCHENER – Influenza season is around the corner and that means vaccinations are now available.
The public can get the flu shot at pharmacies, community clinics or primary care providers, but what can we expect for the flu season?
It's always different, but flu season typically ramps up towards the end of November.
Mara Gerriets-Ashby says it's better to be safe than sorry.
"My mother is moving to the area and she's immune-compromised," she says. "She had a heart transplant."
The veterinarian, who is used to giving needles, spent her lunch break on Thursday to get a flu shot at a Waterloo pharmacy.
Health officials say seniors and those who are under five that are considered high risk. They often need a high-dosage vaccine.
"We have ordered 200,000 extra shots of the high-dose flu vaccine this year, we have received adequate supply," Christine Elliott said at a news conference on Wednesday.
But a local pharmacist says that, during the health minister's press conference, she didn't put enough stress on where to get those vaccines: only doctors or nurse practitioners are able to administer high-dosage shots, not pharmacists.
"There was some ambiguity in her announcement," says Patty Vamvakitis, who owns Carriage Crossing Pharmasave.
"The reality on the ground is I have a lot of patients whose family doctors have run out and don't have any supply until later on in November."
She says dozens of people have reached out to her confused about where to go.
The health minister admits that there was a delay in shipment due to manufacturing issues, but Vamvikitis says that, if that's the case, you should still get a regular-dosage shot.
"It takes two weeks to build proper immunity and the longer people delay, the more they're put at risk," she says.
There could be extra incentive to get one this year, too: the pharmacist says it's looking like it could be a bad flu season this year, with a confirmed case in Guelph and two flu-related deaths in Saskatchewan.
Waterloo Region Public Health says that last year there were three flu-related deaths in the region, but the season before that saw 17.
Across the province, more than 5,000 hospitalizations were linked to the flu virus and there were 275 flu-related deaths.
"Often it isn't directly-attributable to the disease, so in an elderly person, they may get pneumonia out on top of getting the flu virus," explains David Aoki, manager of vaccine-preventable diseases.
The region's 20 community clinics offer free flu shots starting on Nov. 5.