Demand for flu shot vaccine up across province as supply dwindles

John Brannen
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With the flu season well under way in Pictou County, medical professionals have recognized an increased demand for the flu shot that is pushing supplies to the edge.

Dr. Ryan Sommers, medical officer of health for Colchester, Cumberland and Pictou counties and the municipality of East Hants, noted that demand is up in the county and across the province. Some places, such as Alberta, experienced a shortage.

“Traditionally, we’ll see 35 per cent willing to get a flu shot, people with chronic disease, children and seniors,” said Sommers. “There’s been an increased interest, for sure.”

In Nova Scotia, there have been 435,000 doses issued across the province, which means potentially 48 per cent of the population has been vaccinated.

“It’s amazing, since the province averages between 30 to 35 per cent,” Sommers noted. “We’re number one in Canada for vaccinations.”

At a time when the flu is peaking, doses have been shipped into the county from Cumberland, Colchester and East Hants to help ease supply concerns.

“In the last two weeks, about 1,000 doses have been redistributed in New Glasgow.”

He noted that the Pictou County Health Authority is working with community organizers to ensure that all unused vaccines from nursing homes or refrigerators get redistributed where they can be used.

Sommers noted that the province’s strategy during flu season isn’t designed to vaccinate everyone, just those who need it most. It’s due to a combination of factors that has driven up demand.

“A combination of what’s taken place in Alberta, local media reports and awareness that younger people are more susceptible to H1N1 is resulting in record numbers this season,” he said.

The response started two weeks ago with an additional 9,600 doses delivered to the province. While Nova Scotia sent 1,300 vaccines to Alberta, the debt has been repaid with 1,300 sent back to this province.

As concerns surrounding supplies have been assuaged for the moment, Sommers cautions that those thinking of getting vaccinated should do so now.

“It takes two weeks to get through the body and effectively activate the immune response so time is of the essence.”

Ron Matlock, pharmacist and owner of Shoppers Drug Mart in Trenton and on East River Road, noted that he’s seen a peak in demand since the New Year.

“From the beginning of January we’ve seen a lot of younger people and their families,” said Matlock.

Since flu season typically goes until March or April, medical professionals recommend getting the flu shot in the fall.

“While that’s certainly best, the flu shot is better late than never.”

Matlock noted that while there have been periods when the pharmacy has run out of vaccines, pharmacies and public health in the county have been working together to ensure an adequate supply.

“People have tried different pharmacies or some of the clinics in the county,” said Matlock. “We all take the person’s health as the most important factor.”

About 100 doses have been delivered from the Shoppers Drug Mart locations in the county.

While this is the first year that pharmacists have been able to deliver the flu shot, Sommers is very pleased with the results across the province so far.

“Pharmacist participation has been phenomenal and people have been making use of them for the flu shot.”

On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn 

Organizations: Pictou County Health Authority, Shoppers Drug Mart

Geographic location: Alberta, Colchester, East Hants Nova Scotia Pictou Canada New Glasgow Trenton East River Road

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