By Jessica Lovell
As flu season approaches, Guelph and area residents may have a few more options available to them when it comes to where to go to get the shot.
The province announced a list of new services that pharmacists can provide, including flu shots. In the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health area, there are eight potential pharmacies – six in Guelph, one in Erin and one in Fergus.The eight pharmacies have been preapproved by the province to give flu shots; now they must get the approval of the health unit before proceeding.
“It’s our responsibility to make sure they can store and handle the vaccine,” said Chuck Ferguson, manager of communications for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health.
The pharmacies have to have the storage capacity with dedicated fridges that can maintain the proper temperature to store the vaccine for seven consecutive days, he explained.
The health unit’s evaluations of local pharmacies’ storage systems were completed on Oct. 12, but results are not expected to be available until Oct. 22.
If the pharmacies pass, the service will be available for people over the age of five, starting Oct. 22, and the shot will be administered by specially trained pharmacists, said an Ontario government news release.
It is possible that all eight pharmacies will pass inspection or that none of them will pass, said Ferguson.
But ultimately, public health is encouraging people to get their flu shot, wherever they have to go to get it, he said.
“The goal of public health, like the goal of the Ministry of Health, is to see as many people vaccinated as possible,” Ferguson said. “If pharmacies can do it, that just means more people have access.”
If they can’t do it, people still have the usual options for getting the vaccine.
Public health provides free public vaccination clinics in most of its communities, including Guelph, said Ferguson. “Your primary care provider can give the shot as well,” he said.
This year, local flu shot clinics begin Oct. 29 with one that runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Evergreen Seniors Centre.
In addition to possibly distributing the vaccine to pharmacies this year, public health is also responsible for distributing the vaccine to primary health-care providers, hospitals and long-term-care homes.
Public Health administered about 14,000 flu shots last year and is aiming to do as many or more this year, said Ferguson.
“The flu shot is your best chance of not catching the flu,” he said, noting that if you do get the flu, you can expect to be ill for up to two weeks.
New services at pharmacies
Along with the announcement that pharmacists would be offering flu shots this year, the Ontario government also announced a few other expanded services pharmacists can offer.
They are now also able to:
• renew or adapt existing prescriptions
• prescribe medication to help people quit smoking
• demonstrate how to use an asthma inhaler or how to inject insulin
• and support patients with chronic disease, such as diabetes, to monitor their condition.
“We are maximizing the service provided by pharmacists so that Ontarians can receive the care they need safely, quickly and closer to home,” said Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Deb Matthews, in a news release.
“Pharmacists are highly trained and trusted health providers,” she said. “It’s time that we benefit fully from all the services they can provide.”