White Coat, Black Art

Why this year's flu shot campaign may be a dress rehearsal for a COVID-19 vaccine

White Coat, Black Art's Dr. Brian Goldman talks to three health-care providers about why the flu shot can be hard to come by this year and what that might mean for a possible rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Public health officials urging more people to get influenza vaccine this year

Demand for the flu vaccine has jumped as public health officials have warned of a 'twindemic' where the health-care system would be stretched beyond capacity due to flu and COVID-19 patients in hospitals at the same time. (David Greedy/Getty Images)

Across the country, Canadians have been scrambling to get their annual flu shot — especially after being told by public health officials that it's vital we stay healthy during the pandemic to reduce the strain on intensive care units and health-care providers.

But in parts of the country, some medical professionals say the high demand and lags in distributing the vaccine mean that many pharmacies and doctors are out of flu shots and are waiting for more to arrive. 

This week's White Coat, Black Art with host Dr. Brian Goldman looks at why the flu shot can be hard to come by this year and what that might mean for a possible rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Dr. Monika Dutt is the acting medical officer of health for the central and western zones in Newfoundland. (Monika Dutt)

Dr. Monika Dutt

Dutt, the acting medical officer of health for the central and western zones in Newfoundland and Labrador, tells us how that province is managing an ambitious goal to vaccinate 85 per cent of its population against the flu, compared to 30 per cent in previous years.

Dr. Iris Gorfinkel is a Toronto-based family physician. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

Dr. Iris Gorfinkel

Gorfinkel, a family doctor and vaccine researcher in Toronto, says she's struggled to keep up with the demand for the flu shot in her office, as she waits for more vaccines to be released by the government. 

She calls that delay "unacceptable" during a pandemic and worries about the possibility of a "twindemic" of influenza and COVID-19 if shots aren't on hand when patients are ready to receive them. 

Gorfinkel adds that the flu shot can have ramifications for people who are at higher risk.

She says inefficiencies in the system, including waste, could be addressed if Canada developed a national vaccine registry using barcodes that are already on most vaccines. 

Canadian Pharmacists Association director of practice development Shelita Dattani. (Submitted/Canadian Pharmacists Association)

Shelita Dattani

Dattani, director of practice development for the Canadian Pharmacists Association, says pharmacists are also having to turn patients away in some parts of the country because of high demand for the shot this year. 

While she's confident that Canadians will get the vaccine eventually, she says it's evidence that there's more work to be done around allocation to ensure a smooth rollout of any COVID-19 vaccine, and she says pharmacists are prepared to play a key role in that effort. 


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