North

Whitehorse pharmacies prepare to deliver flu vaccine

Whitehorse pharmacies are planning to offer the flu vaccine this year, which will mean drop-in service.

Outside Whitehorse, flu shots still to be delivered by community health centres

Shoppers Drug Mart, Walmart, the Real Canadian Superstore, Save-On-Foods, I.D.A. Pharmacy and Medicine Chest Pharmacy in Whitehorse have all confirmed they are planning to offer flu shots this year.  (Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

Yukon pharmacies are preparing to offer flu shots this year in a move that advocates say will reduce wait times and boost the rate of vaccination.

The plan means the N.W.T. and Nunavut are now the only places in Canada where pharmacies cannot offer the service.

Joanne Gibson, president of the Yukon Pharmacists Association says the goal is to reduce wait times and make vaccination more convenient.

She said every business will set its own rules and procedures. Some pharmacies plan to offer online booking, Gibson said, to avoid lineups altogether.

"This is all very new in Yukon and given the social distancing requirements, it could be quite tricky to organize. Lots of pharmacies are considering having separate clinics or changing opening hours to allow access to seniors or anybody at high risk," she said.

The change will only affect Whitehorse pharmacies.

In other Yukon communities, flu shots will continue to be administered  through community health centres and not community pharmacies, according to the department of Health and Social Services.

Franchises confirm they intend to offer flu vaccine

In addition to being president of the Yukon Pharmacists Association, Gibson is also the associate owner of two Shoppers Drug Mart franchises in Whitehorse. 

That franchise, as well as Walmart, Real Canadian Superstore, Save-On Foods, I.D.A. Pharmacy and Medicine Chest Pharmacy in Whitehorse have all confirmed they are planning to offer flu shots this year. 

Yukon changed its Pharmacies Act last spring. The change allows pharmacies to administer vaccines for clients aged six and up. 

Gibson says that Yukon pharmacists have been receiving extra training through the Yukon government to administer vaccines. She says in-person practical training sessions happened last year and some pharmacists are still completing online courses.

Gibson says the goal is to have "as many pharmacists certified as possible to make it more accessible to the public." 

Outside Whitehorse, flu shots will continue to be administered  through community health centres and not community pharmacies, according to the territorial government. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

Yukon's department of Health and Social Services expects that Yukon pharmacies will begin offering the flu vaccine to high-risk patients on Oct. 19 and the general public by Oct. 26.

Doses will be obtained by the Yukon government.

"We won't be running out. The pharmacies will be able to get [doses] from one another in between ordering schedules," Gibson said.

Flu shot especially important this year, say health authorities

Gibson says the flu shot is especially important this year given COVID-19.  Health authorities are seeking to avoid what they call a 'twindemic.'

The Canadian Pharmacists Association reports that pharmacies, not health clinics or doctors' offices, have become the most common place where Canadians get flu vaccines. 

This year the association has called on the federal government to provide personal protective equipment for pharmacists and called for more compensation to cover costs associated with COVID-19. 

Different models across Canada see private pharmacies compensated by government for vaccination services, often on a per-client rate.

As the vaccines are publicly-funded there will be no charge to people using the service in Yukon.

"It will be the same as going to a public health clinic," Gibson said.

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