According to the provincial government, Alberta's pharmacists gave flu shots to more than 610,000 people during the 2017-18 influenza season.
That’s over half of the 1.2 million Albertans immunized last year.
“The pharmacist impact in the flu shot program is huge,” said Fort Saskatchewan pharmacist Dalia Elsayed. “We managed to do 50 per cent of the whole target that was out there.”
The province is aiming to see 35 per cent of the population receive flu shots in 2018-19. The Alberta Influenza Immunization Program starts October 15, with the vaccine available free of charge at pharmacies, doctor’s offices and public health clinics to all Albertans six months of age or older.
"Everyone six months or older should be getting the flu shot,” Elsayed said, adding that some people, including the elderly, pregnant women and children younger than 2, are more prone to coming down with the flu.
“Also people with low immunity. So people with chronic diseases, people taking medications that decrease their immunity, things like that."
According to Alberta Health Services (AHS), the flu season generally starts in November and lasts until April – symptoms tend to appear suddenly and include high fever, cough, extreme tiredness and chills, aches and pain. AHS reports that while most people recover from the flu, the illness lands about 12,200 people in the hospital and causes 3,500 deaths every year in Canada.
Pharmacists are authorized to provide immunizations to people five years of age or older. Children under 9 who have never received a flu shot need two doses spaced at least four weeks apart, Elsayed said.
Elsayed, who operates Abex Pharmacy in Fort Saskatchewan, will have the vaccine available seven days a week once the seasonal influenza program begins. Elsayed said that it’s the earlier the better when it comes to preventing the flu.
"It's a long winter. So we have to be ready."