Pharmacy Awareness Month 2014 - Immunizations

Article: Immunizations – Convenient, Quick and Close

Since the H1N1 outbreak of 2009, pharmacists in Nova Scotia have been like race horses at the starting gates, waiting to take off. Over the past four years more than half of Nova Scotia’s pharmacists received training in the provision of immunizations through injections.  When regulations that gave pharmacists the authority to administer injections were finally passed in 2013,  pharmacists were ready to hit the ground running.  The results of Nova Scotia’s province-wide flu vaccination campaign show just how ready pharmacists were.

Initially, the provincial government anticipated that a supply of 20,000 flu shots would be sufficient to supply pharmacies across Nova Scotia. Pharmacists across Nova Scotia knew better. After all, pharmacists in other provinces had been providing immunization services for years. Pharmacists were hearing from their patients that they, too, wanted to have the same services that their neighbours in New Brunswick could enjoy.  Knowing this, it was not much of a surprise when Nova Scotia pharmacists provided almost 75,000 flu shots to their fellow Nova Scotians. More than 17 percent of the flu vaccine that came into this province was put into arms of patients by these first time providers. That result is impressive.

But why was pharmacy in Nova Scotia so successful in its very first year of providing the publicly funded flu shot?  Yes, the pharmacists were prepared but so was the public. Patients wanted to get their flu shots during non-business hours. Patients wanted to get their shopping done at the same time as they got their flu shot. And then there were those patients who had never gotten their shot before but did so because it was recommended by their trusted community pharmacist.  In fact, in some areas of the province, the community pharmacist was the only provider of the flu shot in the area.

One of our favorite stories from this flu season came from a 50-year-old Halifax man who was terrified of needles but ended up getting his flu shot for the first time. We are told that while casually chatting with his pharmacist when dropping in to the store to pick up a few things, he was offered his flu shot.  After a brief discussion, he decided to get one.  When he called his wife and proudly declared what he had done, she asked him what made him decide to finally get the shot. He said it just made sense. It was  convenient and he didn’t have all the time waiting to talk himself out of it.  

We have heard other stories from busy people who said they did not get a flu shot before because they could not fit a visit for a flu shot into regular business hours.  The option to get their flu shot in the evening or on the weekend, close to home or their place of business, is why they got their flu shot for the first time this year.

Although flu shots are the only publicly funded immunization pharmacies provide, they are not the only immunizations patients can receive from their pharmacist.  Common travel immunizations for Hepatitis A and B can be prescribed and administered by your pharmacist, as well as the immunization for Shingles.

Immunizations are just one of the convenient services your pharmacist can provide. Your pharmacist is an expert on medications and their effects on the body. We encourage you to take advantage of their expertise. 

March is Pharmacist Awareness Month in Canada.  Each week your pharmacy will be spotlighting a different pharmacy service they provide. Watch for special events that will be taking place in your community pharmacy during the month of March.

Remember, if you need your shots for your trip down South, it’s not a problem. The pharmacist is in.