Red Deerians eager to get vaccinated against the flu don’t have to wait for community immunization clinics later this month.
Alberta Health spokesman Tom McMillan said in the past, pharmacies had to wait to administer the vaccine to customers until a pre-determined date.
“This year, Alberta Health authorized all pharmacies, both large and small, that they can begin administering the vaccine as soon as they receive it. All will have received vaccine by Oct. 21.”
Alberta Health Services will start its annual influenza immunization clinic program around the province during the week of Oct. 21.
He said the vaccine is typically distributed by pharmacy wholesale distributors over a two- to three-week period.
Some pharmacies may have it already and are making it available to customers, while others have not yet received their supplies.
He said vaccinating people as soon as possible is in the public’s best interest.
”If you have it, why shouldn’t people be able to access it? Our goal is always to immunize as many people as possible,” McMillan said.
Pharmacies have been participating in the provincial vaccination program since 2010.
Doug Higham, London Drugs pharmacy manager, said his store received its vaccine supply Oct. 2.
Customers usually start asking about it in mid-September, so it has been helpful to offer vaccinations earlier this year.
“It’s been better for snowbirds especially, who want to get out of town,” Higham said.
Mehul Makwana, pharmacist and owner of The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy, said he also received his supply early last week, and agreed availability has helped those leaving the province before community clinics open.
The free vaccine is available to all Albertans age five and older at pharmacies.
At Alberta Health Services clinics, the vaccine is available for Albertans six months of age and older.
Influenza is an infection of the nose, throat and lungs caused by a virus that is spread through the air. It is also spread by touching objects that have been coughed or sneezed on by someone with the flu.
A higher risk of complications from the flu is possible for children six to 59 months of age, pregnant women, people 65 years or older, and people with chronic health problems.
“We would just encourage everyone to come and get (vaccinated). You’re not only protecting yourself, you’re protecting others around you,” Higham said.
During the 2018-19 influenza season, 160 people in central Alberta were admitted to hospital with influenza and nine people died. Across the province, 1,391 went into hospital and 30 died.
In 2017-18, there were 92 flu-related deaths.
A total of 1,305,470 doses of vaccine were administered last season, compared to 1,229,350 during the 2017-18 season.