Getting the flu shot in 2020 is on the to-do list for many Toronto residents this time of year but especially so with COVID-19.
A fast-approaching flu season, coupled with a global pandemic, has shown a spike in interest for this year's influenza immunization, according to a study from the independent pharmacy chain Pharmasave.
According to the report, of the 7,000 people across Ontario and Atlantic Canada who were surveyed, 86 per cent of participants said they planned on getting their flu shots this year. That's up from 78 per cent of people who say they were immunized last year.
The reason is obvious: thanks to the coronavirus, there's been a "collective uneasiness" around getting sick during colder weather, says Jaspreet Chager, Senior Manager of Pharmacy Innovation at Pharmasave East.
Why healthcare workers recommend getting your flu shot
To be clear, getting your flu shot won't protect you against COVID-19. In general, healthcare professionals recommend that anyone over the age of six months should be getting their flu immunization yearly.
But what it will do is ease the strain on Ontario's already-overburdened healthcare system, which would buckle under the pressure of treating both flu and COVID-19 patients.
"This year, what’s different is that we don't want a storm of infections of influenza as well as COVID at the same time," says Chager.
"It’s going to make it hard to tell what the patient is suffering from."
Symptoms like a fever, cough, sore throat, fatigue, aches and pains and loss of appetite can point to both the flu and COVID-19. Other symptoms like shortness of breath and loss of taste and smell are linked to the coronavirus.
Plus, there is a risk of co-infection. It's rare, with little data to suggest the impact, but there's nothing to prevent getting COVID-19 and the flu at the same time. It all makes this year's immunization particularly important, especially for high-risk groups like seniors.
Where to get your flu shot and what to expect
This year patient safety is more of a priority than ever.
National pharmacy and pharmacist associations have been planning how they'll be executing the flu shot process since May, says Chager, so "be ready for changes".
Your immunization experience might include pharmacists calling patients ahead of time to screen for coronavirus symptoms, and again when patients arrive.
You may need to sign a consent form, which your pharmacist may send prior to your visit. Some may offer them online to streamline the process.
Like COVID-19 tests, some pharmacies may even offer drive-thru clinics to patients in order to reduce crowding and help the flow of patients for screening purposes.
Above all, expect to make an appointment, as opposed to walk-ins like previous years, so that healthcare professionals can better adhere to the Province-mandated safety protocols. You'll likely have to wear a mask when you arrive, too.
When flu shots will become available in Toronto
Province-wide, the official launch date of flu shots is Oct. 26 but many healthcare providers will be carrying immunization even before then.
In fact, pharmacies will start receiving supplies from Oct. 5 onwards so the best move is always to call your pharmacist ahead of time and see if they've received their stock.
After that, they'll continue to reorder supplies, though availability may vary day to day, depending on demand. Vaccinations are generally available from October until January or February.
Keep in mind, it'll take two weeks before the flu vaccine boosts your immunity, so the sooner you can get it, the better.
by Tanya Mok via blogTO