Joanne Gibson, president Yukon Pharmacists Association, poses for a photo at the Qwanlin Mall Shoppers Drug Mart in Whitehorse on Sept. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

YG and pharmacies preparing for flu vaccine distribution

The Yukon government is preparing for flu season and encouraging people to get their flu shots this year to avoid extra stress on the healthcare system during a pandemic.

“If we’re lucky, Canada will experience what Australia and other southern hemisphere countries faced: a very low influenza season. But we don’t know that this will be the case in North America,” said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley during a Sept. 23 COVID-19 update.

“As Yukon CMOH I’ve always stressed how important it is to get your flu shot. This year, I think we will all agree that it is even more important than usual. Since we can’t tell the difference between COVID and the flu by symptoms alone, what we want to prevent is people getting sick from either, and especially from both,” he said.

Flu clinics throughout Yukon will begin the week of October 19 for people considered as high risk or with a chronic disease. The clinic will open to the general public on October 26.

This year, all Whitehorse flu clinics will be centralized at the Yukon Convention Centre with COVID-19 precautions. The clinic will be open six days a week initially with extended hours, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and drop-in shots will be available.

“We’re doing it this way to maximize the number of people getting the flu shot, to keep them safe while getting the shot, and to make cleaning between patients easier and faster. Every effort has been made to make this a safe and positive experience,” said Hanley.

Getting the flu shot doesn’t guarantee the recipient will not be infected, and it does not protect against COVID-19, but it does reduce the risk from major seasonal strains of influenza. The more people who get immunized the better protection for vulnerable populations like seniors and immunocompromised people.

Further details on the rollout are expected in October.

For the first time in the territory, pharmacists will also be able to administer flu shots at pharmacies this year. Regulations were changed in 2019 to allow vaccines to be administered to people aged six and up in pharmacies but didn’t come into effect until after the 2019-2020 flu season ended.

Similar to a public health clinic there is no charge to clients for the vaccine.

Joanne Gibson, president of the Yukon Pharmacists Association and owner of the two Shoppers Drug Marts in Whitehorse, said pharmacists have welcomed the change and have completed online training.

They will ask all patients to wear masks and pharmacists will also be sanitizing, wearing masks and cleaning between shots to make sure people are kept safe.

“That’s added into the extra training that pharmacists have been doing,” Gibson said.

Whitehorse pharmacies, including Walmart, Superstore, I.D.A. Pharmacy, Medicine Chest, Shoppers Drug Mart and Save-On Foods said they are planning on offering the vaccine, but are still working on details.

Contact Haley Ritchie at haley.ritchie@yukon-news.com

Coronavirusflu season

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