British Columbia·Video

Getting the flu shot will look a bit different in B.C. this year

The B.C. government is hoping to see two million residents receive their influenza vaccination this year, up from 1.4 million last year, in order to prevent an overload on the health-care system.

Pharmacies ask customers to book appointments and wear a mask

The B.C. government is hoping to see a substantial increase in the number of residents who get their flu shot this year. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Flu vaccines have started arriving in pharmacies and doctors' offices across B.C., but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, getting the shot might be a little different this year.

The B.C. government is hoping to see two million residents receive their influenza vaccination this year, up from 1.4 million last year, in order to prevent an overload on the health-care system.

Dr. Jeanette Boyd, president of the B.C. College of Family Physicians, said doctors are already noticing increased interest in the flu shot in light of the pandemic.

"It's going to be extremely critical and essential to make sure that everyone has access to flu vaccines," Boyd told CBC.

But because of COVID-19, many workplaces aren't planning their usual office clinics, and the B.C. Pharmacy Association has warned that in most cases, patients should expect to book an appointment for a shot this year rather than just walking into a drug store.

At London Drugs, customers are being asked to book online, wear a mask and show up at the time of their appointment — not any earlier.

"We really have to try to limit the number of people in the store and try to limit their exposure in the store," pharmacy manager Gianni Del Negro said.

At her news conference Thursday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the vaccine "should be available in the coming weeks for everybody who wants it."

Henry said planning for this flu season began in February, and extra influenza vaccine has been ordered to meet demand. 

"We have a plan to make sure that we can safely get vaccine to as many people as we possibly can this year and to do it in a way that makes sure we're not putting people at risk for COVID as well," she said.

Watch Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the importance of getting a flu vaccine this year:

Dr. Bonnie Henry says while it won't protect against COVID-19, getting a flu shot will help ease pressure on the health care system. 1:26

Appointments with both a family doctor or a pharmacist also might take longer than in normal years because of COVID-19 screening processes.

And while many doctors have shifted their practices to virtual appointments whenever possible, protecting seniors, children and people with chronic health conditions from influenza remains a priority this year.

"Most family doctors will absolutely be providing immunizations, especially to those high-risk populations," Boyd said.

She said that anyone who's unsure about where to get the shot should call 811 or check with HealthLinkBC.

With files from Micki Cowan

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