SHA expects more flu shots this year
October 19, 2020, 9:36 am
Rob Paul - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
With Covid-19 at the forefront of most people’s minds as winter approaches, the Saskatchewan Health Authority is ramping up for flu season. Flu clinics in Saskatchewan will begin on October 19. Even with people taking extra health and safety precautions due to the pandemic, the SHA says that shouldn’t change the way people look at flu season. With overall increases in flu shot numbers in other countries, the SHA is preparing for more people to get vaccinated this year than in years past.
The risk of Covid-19 adds a different dimension to this flu season and because of that the SHA is working hard to ensure every clinic offering vaccinations has proper protocol in place.
“This year it’s a very different situation while dealing with Covid-19,” said SHA Executive Director, Primary Health Care Jacqui Kennett-Peppler. “We’re working hard to make sure the vaccine will be widely available. Our goal in Integrated Rural is to have every health care encounter be an opportunity to either be immunized or be directed to where people can be immunized. The best source of that information as to where those clinics are available is at www.4flu.ca. That will really help direct people as to where the closest clinic or opportunity to be immunized is.
“We are asking our communities to come prepared wearing masks and if they don’t have a mask available, that will be provided to them at those clinics as well as using Isagel frequently. We ask that if any community members are ill or have any influenza-like symptoms to call 811 and go through that process so we can make sure they’re directed to the most appropriate spot. We really don’t want a community member with Covid-like symptoms and influenza-like symptoms coming through our flu clinics. We’ll certainly having an opportunity for them to see medical attention or be vaccinated.
With the additional concern of Covid-19 this flu season, the SHA has been prepping to ensure there are more clinics available to give vaccinations across the province to help lower unnecessary in-person interactions.
“We are looking at a variety of locations and offering our traditional flu clinics in our communities and those listings can be found online. We’re really working on making the vaccine widely available and recognizing some of the constraints we’re under with Covid-19 restrictions with trying to keep people spread out and ensuring we’re distancing,” said Kennett-Peppler. “We wanted to make sure we had other opportunities available for our public to obtain the vaccine. We’re trying to have multiple venues for people to access so we’re able to meet the demand from our communities and make sure we’re complying with the Covid-19 public health order. ”
Some clinics will be by appointment only while other will remain drop-in due to the different situations in different areas. There’s expected to be more appointment-based clinics in rural areas of the province.
“Clinics are in varying spaces so if they feel they can manage the flow without having booked appointments, that will be done,” said Kennett-Peppler. There will be a little bit of variation (with appointment and walk-in clinics) throughout our area depending on multiple factors. If we’re finding that the clinics without booked appointments are having struggles with managing the flow to ensure we can continue to socially distance our community members then we’ll look at how we need to adapt that to make it the best case scenario for everybody.”
Based on how other areas of the world have seen an increase in flu vaccinations during Covid-19, the SHA is prepared for that with more supplies than in previous flu seasons.
“We’re anticipating an uptick in the interest of the flu vaccine,” said Sun Country Health Region Medical Health Officer Dr. Lanre Medu. “There’s data and trends showing more interest in the vaccine. If what has happened in the southern hemisphere—in Australia and New Zealand—if we go by that as what to expect—Australia saw an uptick in those wanting the flu vaccine—we are prepared for about a similar increase. Supplies have been obtained based on those numbers. To that extent, we’re also expecting our clinics to go for a little bit longer.
“Currently we have vaccine supplies that are able to get us through our anticipated requirement,” said Medu. “We are ready and we have enough supplies ready to go and the province has also gone above and beyond what was already previously had and so there’s another resource to draw on to accommodate for that need. Vaccine supplies at this point are not a concern. The supplies would be ready to be provide by October 19.”
The SHA is also using this flu season to gain a better understanding of how to handle a potential Covid-19 vaccine down the road.
“We really do think this year is an important year because our system really depends on managing both our Covid-19 outbreaks and our influenza outbreaks so that our system doesn’t become overwhelmed with being able to manage,” Kennett-Peppler said. “We are looking at this year to be that opportunity to really provide us with some of the learnings we might need so when a Covid-19 vaccine becomes available we have some opportunities to understand how we might be able to deliver that in various mechanisms so that we’re not just relying on our traditional providers and we’re able to potentially provide the vaccinations. It’s definitely a learning curve with Covid-19, we’re having to learn on the fly and adapt our processes.”