Flu season hits Canada annually, and it’s not something to be taken lightly. Influenza is one of the top 10 causes of death in our country. It’s estimated that roughly 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths result from the illness every year.
Although the flu is contagious and can affect any of us, it poses the most serious health concerns for certain populations, including children, pregnant women, and the elderly.
“That’s why it’s so important for all Canadians to get immunized to not only protect themselves from the flu but to prevent spreading it to those most at risk,” Nicolas Caprio, President of Rexall, tells Daily Hive.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re working to protect each other from the spread of the virus, but we also need to consider protection from the flu. Caprio says the flu vaccine can take up to two weeks to start providing protection, so it’s key for people to get vaccinated “as early as possible.”
Rexall has implemented new procedures and protocols to ensure the safety of patients and staff during the flu season. This includes the launch of their digital scheduling tool through their partnership with MedMe, which allows you to book your flu vaccination from the comfort of your home through any computer or mobile device.
The option to pre-book a flu shot can be made via the Rexall website or through the Be Well app. This means patients can lock in an appointment time for their vaccination at their nearest or most convenient Rexall location.
To schedule the appointment, patients will be asked to fill in a digital form with their relevant health details, which takes less than five minutes to do. They will also need to complete a coronavirus screening 24 hours before their timeslot. This allows for a smooth process on the day of the appointment, with minimal points of contact so that the patient can be seen by the pharmacist soon after they show up.
It’s worth noting that all pharmacists at Rexall are required to complete mandatory flu training to employ best practices and share knowledge. This, Caprio notes, outlines the necessary measures to protect patients and pharmacists in this unprecedented time.
“In addition to the protocols outlined for safe vaccination, the enhanced training will include how to provide a safe environment as we navigate through COVID-19,” he says.
This includes adhering to strict guidelines set by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), regarding PPE, physical distancing, proper hand hygiene, and enhanced disinfection measures before and after patient interaction. “All pharmacists will be required to sign off a daily check list of flu preparation and maintenance reports.”
During last year’s flu season, 42% of Canadians chose to get vaccinated — an increase of just 4% from the previous season. Now, the challenge for the upcoming season, Caprio says, is to increase that vaccination rate even further to prevent the significant strain flu could have on the healthcare system, since full recovery from the illness can sometimes take up to six weeks.
Vaccinations can help protect patients and those around them from catching the flu. Caprio says that in the 48 hours after getting your flu shot, it’s normal to feel soreness, redness, tenderness, or even develop a mild fever or body aches. This is a typical immune response and not the flu itself, he explains. “So there’s no reason to avoid getting the flu shot because it’s a myth that it can make you sick.”
Severe allergic reactions to the vaccination are very rare, according to Caprio. “These signs would most likely happen within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccine is given. That is why the Pharmacist will ask you to stay in the pharmacy for a short period of time to observe any severe reactions. All Rexall Pharmacists are trained to handle this situation in the rare instance that this may occur.”
Canadians who don’t wish to pre-book their flu shot online can still visit their Rexall any day, any time to get their shot. Walk-in patients will be asked to complete a coronavirus screening in-store before being provided a walk-in appointment time.
All customers must wear masks or face coverings in the store and during their vaccination appointments. Rexall staff have been assigned roles to ensure physical distancing is maintained throughout the store for both clients and patients.