Thousands rush to get flu shot after 2 children died in Guelph

Nearly three thousand people in the Guelph area have rushed to get a flu shot after Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health confirmed two children died from the flu last week.

2,845 people attended flu clinics that Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health opened last Friday

Nearly three thousand people visited WDG Public Health's extended flu clinics since health officials confirmed two children died from the flu last Friday. (Valentin Flauraud/Reuters)

Thousands of people in the Guelph area have rushed to flu clinics to get their flu shot after two children died from the flu last week.

Chuck Ferguson, a spokesman for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health told CBC News there has "definitely been a spike" in visits to get a flu shot since officials confirmed two children died from flu-related illnesses on Friday, Feb. 9.

WDGPH announced it would have extended flu shot clinics, where people could go for a flu shot, as a result of the fear and anxiety over the flu that was sparked by the deaths.

 "Since we started the first clinic last Friday we've seen almost 3,000 people," he told CBC News, adding that the extended clinics were "definitely well used and that is particularly in the Guelph area."

Extended flu clinic visits: numbers provided by WDGPH
Feb. 9thFeb. 10thFeb. 11thFeb. 12thFeb. 13thTotal

Ferguson said the spike in flu shot numbers is easily attributed to a number of factors.

"Well, certainly there was a heightened sense of anxiety in the community... because two children died in the same community within a week," he said.

"I would also say we publicized fairly aggressively the flu clinics through social media and then media outlets were extremely helpful in getting the word out."

Ferguson said public health doesn't normally have flu clinics, as the majority of the public get their flu shots from their physician or a pharmacist.

'Ten times what we are used to'

According to the head of the Guelph Pharmacists Association, pharmacies "absolutely" experienced a spike in demand for a flu shot in the days after the deaths were confirmed.

"Our busiest time for flu shots is usually November and even at that we will get 10 to 20 people a day in," Lisa MacEachern, a Guelph pharmacist and head of the GPA, told CBC News.

"Saturday alone — in four hours I vaccinated 150 people and we just ran out of vaccine, but I probably could have done 150 more," MacEachern said.

"I would say it's easily ten times what we are used to."

Never experienced anything like this

She said the steep spike in demand is "absolutely the deaths" of the two children.

She said not all pharmacies give flu vaccines, but the ones that do have said they are just as busy as the pharmacies she works at — Kortright Pharmacy and Pharmasave at Westminster Square in Guelph.

MacEachern said she has never experienced anything like this before.

She said she experienced the chaos a little bit when H1N1 was big, but pharmacies weren't giving vaccinations at that time.

"I have never seen this before as a pharmacist that's doing the vaccinating," she said.

Ferguson said he respects that people in the Guelph area are anxious about the flu, but reassured that there is no greater threat of the flu in one specific area and that there is flu activity throughout southwestern Ontario.