A temporary shortage of flu vaccine and a perceived reduction in public flu clinics have had telephones ringing off the hook at Salmon Arm pharmacies.
As of Friday, Nov. 1, several of the city’s pharmacies that offer flu shots were waiting on a second batch of this year’s flu vaccine, having already run out of the first allotment.
“We’ve been given an indication it will arrive likely next week sometime, but we don’t know exactly what date,” Uptown Askew’s pharmacy manager Darlene Ogilvie commented with a cautious optimism shared by pharmacists at other pharmacies in town.
On the same Friday, Salmon Arm’s one public drop-in flu vaccination clinic was held at the Salmon Arm Health Centre. While there was a line-up at the beginning of the clinic, those who attended later in the day reported being in and out in no time. Staff at the centre, however, did hear from residents who were concerned about the lack of advertising and that, to date, there was only the one public drop-in clinic scheduled for Salmon Arm this year.
Interior Health says the number of clinics this year is consistent with last year, although the location has changed in some cases, including Salmon Arm.
“In addition to the drop-in clinic today (Friday, Nov. 1), there are a number of upcoming dates where individuals can book appointments,” commented the health authority in an email to the Observer.
Those family flu clinics at the Salmon Arm Health Centre are by appointment only. One was held on Monday, Nov. 4. Others are scheduled from 2 to 7 p.m. on the following Mondays: Nov. 18, Dec. 2 and Dec. 16.
“Local pharmacies in Salmon Arm can also administer flu shots. It is recommended that people call the pharmacy ahead of time. More vaccine will be distributed to community providers in the weeks ahead,” stated Interior Health.
Ogilvie and other pharmacists in the city report they have received a lot of calls from people about the flu shot. She says part of it has to do with the expectation of a second public drop-in public health flu clinic that has yet to be scheduled.
“In recent years, there has been an offsite clinic that they have hosted, usually at the Gathering Place or something to that effect, and that is not happening this year. Why, I have no idea…,” said Ogilvie. “And because the second allotment has been delayed, there is even more of a, well, ‘I want to make sure I get mine.’ So there is a little bit of a panic that has been created out there unfortunately… And I’m sure the other stores are finding the same thing. We are just getting an incredible numbers of phone calls.”
Ogilvie said while pharmacies that offer flu clinics receive some funding through PharmaCare, it is not enough to cover the cost of the service.
“We do get paid for it but, to be honest with you, it’s more of a service,” said Ogilvie. “The amount of time that it takes to draw up from the vial, to have someone wait and then have them wait afterwards, and the staff time and administration time and also the checks that are involved in that, it’s not really a financial boon, I guess I would say. It’s more of a public service.”