Published Wednesday October 20th, 2010
Courtesy of: telegraphjournal.com
SAINT JOHN – This year, Jason Steeves is giving out flu shots for the first time.
The pharmacist is one of 150 in the province who are now certified to administer medical injections, which he says will encourage more people to get the shot.
“It’s increasing the access to the service to the public,” said Steeves, who owns the Zellers pharmacies in the Lancaster Mall and in McAllister Place.
This is the first year pharmacists have been able to give the flu shot, after changes to the Pharmacy Act in 2008. It took time for pharmacists to develop training and certification through Dalhousie University.
Although Steeves has always held flu clinics, the shots had to be administered by groups such as the VON, in longer, infrequent clinics.
“Now, with someone on staff able to do it, we’re able to set up shorter clinics, and much more frequent,” Steeves said, adding his clinics will be by appointment because he is the only pharmacist with the training.
The province launched its seasonal flu vaccination campaign this week. This year’s shot will protect people from three strains of the flu, including the H1N1 virus that made headlines last year.
Seasonal influenza poses serious health risks to the elderly, the very young, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems or other chronic health conditions, the Department of Health says.
The government funds flu vaccine for those high risk groups, as well as their household contacts.
The eligibility of children under 18 for the free shot is new this year, but the Department of Health recommends everyone get it.
Steeves said anyone not in a risk group who wants the shot can pay about $20 to have it done.
The ability for pharmacists to give out the shot demonstrates the changing nature of the field, Steeves said.
“It’s part of an ongoing paradigm shift in the way our profession is seen,” he said. “We’re front-line health care providers, and we’re one of the most accessible health care providers out there.”
He said it’s not pharmacists trying to take business away from doctors, who are already flooded with people getting the flu shot this time of year.
“We’re just making it accessible to a broader scope of people.”
Paul Blanchard, executive director of the New Brunswick Pharmacists’ Association, said it makes sense to allow pharmacists to administer the shot when the goal is to ensure as many people are vaccinated as possible.
Data from the United States show more people get immunized when more health professionals are able to give out the shot, he said.
He said the whole experience will be a “learning experience” for pharmacists across the province, and there have been particular challenges training francophone pharmacists. Dalhousie University only offers English-language training, but the association is finding ways to address the issue.
“There are a shortage of northern pharmacies offering this in our first year,” Blanchard said. “We want to close that gap.”
For a full list of eligibility requirements or a list of pharmacies offering clinics, go to www.gnb.ca/flu.
Saint John pharmacists offering influenza vaccinations are located at:
Zellers Pharmacy, Lancaster Mall, 651 Fairville Blvd., 635-1820
Zellers Pharmacy, McAllister Place, 642-1051
Shoppers Drug Mart, 621 Fairvale Blvd., 636-7740
Shoppers Drug Mart, 407 Westmorland Rd. ,Saint John, 636-7777
Lakewood Guardian, 2075 Loch Lomond Rd., 693-7979
Wal-Mart Pharmacy, 450 Westmorland Rd., 634-6650
Lawtons Phamacy, 107 Catherwood St., 635-1126
Other pharmacies may offer clinics through the VON