Flu shot jabs higher when pharmacists give vaccines: Canadian study

People who live in provinces with policies allowing pharmacists to give flu shots were more likely to be vaccinated than those who did not live in those areas, researchers have found.

Slightly higher proportion of residents got flu shots in provinces where pharmacists administer them

People who live in provinces with policies allowing pharmacists to give flu shots were more likely to be vaccinated than those who did not live in those areas, researchers have found. 

When researchers analyzed data on more than 481,000 people aged 12 and older over seven years, they found uptake of influenza vaccines declined.

But in provinces allowing pharmacists to give the vaccine, the proportion of people vaccinated was slightly higher, 30.4 per cent, compared with those that did not, 28.2 per cent. 

"Update of influenza immunization was modestly increased in Canadian jurisdictions that allowed pharmacists to administer influenza vaccines,"  Dr. Jeff Kwong of Public Health Ontario and his co-authors wrote in Monday's issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal

While that's a relatively small difference, it means that at an individual level, people who live in a province where there is a pharmacist policy were five per cent more likely to get the flu shot, Kwong said. 

For the people who want to get their flu shot, it's probably easier for them to get it at a pharmacy than to, for instance, take a half-day off from work to make an appointment to go see their doctor.- Dr. Jeff Kwong

"It might be making their lives easier to get flu shots," said Kwong, who's also a scientist at the Institute for Clinical
Evaluative Sciences.

"So for the people who want to get their flu shot, it's probably easier for them to get it at a pharmacy than to, for instance, take a half-day off from work to make an appointment to go see their doctor to get the flu shot."

The policies may carry other benefits, the researchers said, such as:

  • Better advertising of seasonal flu vaccines to increase awareness of the burden of flu.
  • Promotion of other healthy behaviours such as handwashing and respiratory etiquette.
  • Chance to reach Canadians in high-risk groups, such as smokers, when they consult pharmacists for nonvaccination services.

To further increase vaccination coverage, the immunizations may also need to be offered to children in school, the study's authors said. 

The study was based on data from the Canadian Community Health Survey, which doesn't include children under the age of 12 and those in institutions — two important groups for influenza vaccines, the researchers said.

The survey collects information on health status and health-care use among a representative sample of the country's
residents every two years.

The study includes British Columbia and Alberta, which had pharmacy flu shot policies in effect in 2009, New Brunswick (2010), Ontario (2012) and Nova Scotia (2013). 

With files from Canadian Press

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