OPH aiming to avoid 'twindemic' by nearly doubling flu shots

Ottawa Public Health says it wants to nearly double the number of people in the city who get the annual flu shot to hopefully avoid a possible "twindemic."

Target set at 70% of city's population, up from 40%

Ottawa Public Health wants to see nearly twice the number of people get vaccinated for the flu this year compared to past years. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Ottawa Public Health says it wants to nearly double the number of people in the city who get the annual flu shot to hopefully avoid a possible "twindemic."

Normally, about 40 per cent of Ottawa residents get the vaccine. This year, due to the dual threats of the spread of COVID-19 and the seasonal flu, the city's medical officer of health wants to see that rise to 70 per cent.

"If you don't normally get the flu shot, we're encouraging you to get one this year," said Dr. Vera Etches during the Ottawa board of health meeting on Monday night.

"There is a potential for a rise in people with COVID and the flu, which could make people very ill and certainly overwhelm our emergency departments."

Etches acknowledged the goal is "ambitious" but said Ottawa Public Health (OPH) already has a plan to roll out more vaccines to more people.

OPH will be running six flu shot clinics at fixed locations around Ottawa and providing vaccines directly to harder-to-reach people, such as those living in shelters or group homes, with help from the Red Cross.

Patients can book an appointment ahead of time and there will be more personal protective equipment, distancing, cleaning and attention paid to prevent crowds from forming.

OPH will also be providing safe clinical spaces for family doctors to administer shots.

Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health, is seen on a screen as she participates in a previous news conference via livestream Sept. 18, 2020. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

"This collaboration will help address some of the challenges that community primary care providers are identifying when it comes to limitations with their offices' ability to handle influenza immunizations in this time of COVID," Etches said.

Pharmacists are also administering the shots as in past years, although Etches said it's not yet clear how that will roll out with Ontario's planned COVID-19 testing at drug stores

Number of doses for Ottawa still unknown 

Nearly doubling the number of flu shots in Ottawa will mean an increased need for supply. Etches said the province has ordered more doses but OPH still doesn't know exactly how many vials it will receive.

Last year, OPH ran out of a special, high-dose version of the flu shot designed for people over age 65.

The first delivery of this season's flu shots is expected in early October and they will begin to be administered shortly thereafter, Etches said.

WATCH | Ontario pediatricians worried about flu shot access:

Ontario pediatricians concerned about meeting flu shot demand

2 years ago
Duration 3:36
Pediatricians in Ontario are sounding the alarm on the lack of financial and logistical support needed to meet the demand for flu vaccines amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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