PHOTO BY SARA SHEIKH / SPUTNIK PHOTOGRAPHY
As Ontario prepares for another flu season during the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacists are both trying to secure vaccines and encourage the public to get theirs.
Last year because of the pandemic, there was an increased desire for individuals to get their flu shots. Dealing with flu patients would add unnecessary strain to an already strained system due to COVID-19. The more people got vaccinated, the less people would experience severe symptoms, be hospitalized and die from the flu.
There were significantly fewer cases of the flu last year than in a typical year. This is largely due to public health guidelines for COVID-19, as well as increased use of masks, sanitization and social distancing.
Last year also saw shortages in the supply of flu shots, given the strong encouragement for the public to get theirs. This year, similar shortages may be expected, according to Bishoi Mikhail, pharmacy owner and designated manager at Wincare Pharmacy.
His pharmacy has been directed to focus on vaccinating those aged 65 and older during October. He explains that this may either be due to anticipated shortages, or simply an increased focus in making sure those who need a flu shot most get it first.
Seeing as doctor’s offices are still seeing less people due to the pandemic, pharmacies are taking on an increased number of individuals looking for a flu shot, further adding to the potential for a limited supply.
There have also been concerns that this year’s flu season may be worse than a typical year’s.
“When you’re doing the flu vaccine, it’s based on the previous strains,” said Mikhail. “If there weren’t a lot of strains that they’re working with from last year, we don’t know what we’re attacking this year.”
The hope is that the flu has not mutated much; however, this is not certain.
Sanjeev Sreenivasan, pharmacist, manager and owner of Legend Pharmacy agrees with this possibility. As COVID-19 restrictions loosen and people go back to work and school, there is an increased number of opportunities for the flu to spread.
“Chances are there might be an outbreak of the flu but I think if all of us do our part and get vaccinated like we are doing this month and next month, I am going to say most of that problem is going to be mitigated and I don’t think we should be seeing such a bad flu season this year,” said Sreenivasan.
Both also agree that COVID-19 is still taking a toll on our healthcare system.
“To add to that, healthcare strain with flu cases might be a little bit too much on the health system,” Mikhail said.
“Irrespective of whether we have the pandemic or not, it’s very important to get the flu shot.,” Sreenivasan said in agreement with Mikhail.
Through a continued following of public health guidelines, sanitization, mask use and other health measures, combined with flu vaccinations, the hope is that the effects of this flu season can be mitigated.
To those who are hesitant about getting a flu shot, Sreenivasan explains there is sound knowledge and science behind the vaccine. The flu may be less likely to have a serious impact on a young, healthy individual, but it adds a layer of protection.
“If it’s something that’ll prevent you from being hospitalized or preventing someone around you from being hospitalized, then do it,” said Mikhail.
Getting a flu shot is quick, easy and can be done at numerous pharmacies and doctor’s offices around Brantford, including the Laurier Wellness Centre.