Pharmacists in Ontario begin administering flu shots

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TORONTO — Now able to provide a broader range of health services, pharmacists in Ontario this week will begin administering flu shots via the provincial government’s Universal Influenza Immunization Program.

Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews receives her flu shot from a Rexall Pharma Plus pharmacist in launching the province’s flu immunization program.

The Ontario Pharmacists’ Association said that starting today all people age 5 and older can go to a local pharmacy and receive a flu vaccination from a specially trained pharmacist.

At present, Ontario has nearly 2,000 pharmacists trained and certified to provide flu vaccines, and a rising number of pharmacies across the province are becoming eligible to participate in the flu shot program, according to the association.

"We have been eagerly awaiting this new role and are extremely pleased to be joining physicians and nurses in providing Ontarians with this year’s flu shot. By having the option to visit their pharmacy for the flu shot, Ontario’s patients will benefit from better access to care during this year’s flu season," Dennis Darby, chief executive officer of the Ontario Pharmacists’ Association, said in a statement.

"We’re working to ensure pharmacists are trained and certified to provide immunizations in the province," Darby added. "We would like to see the list of immunizing pharmacists grow so that eventually there is an immunizing pharmacist in every pharmacy by December 2013."

The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care on Oct. 9 approved regulations that widened the scope of services that pharmacists could provide to consumers. Besides being able to administer flu shots, Ontario pharmacists can now independently renew prescriptions for chronic medications for up to six months; adapt and/or modify prescriptions independently; initiate smoking cessation therapy for patients; administer by injection or inhalation specific medications for the purpose of demonstration and education; and pierce the skin to support patient self-care and monitoring of a condition, such as diabetes.

Kicking off Ontario’s flu vaccination campaign on Monday, Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews got a flu shot from a Rexall Pharma Plus pharmacist.

"Getting a flu shot for Ontarians will be as easy as visiting any Rexall Pharma Plus pharmacy," Rexall CEO Frank Scorpiniti stated. "With over 250 locations and 700 certified pharmacists in Ontario, Rexall Pharma Plus makes it easy to receive flu shots any time, any day, no appointment needed."

Rexall noted that Ontarians embrace the idea of getting a flu vaccination at a pharmacy. According to a recent online survey commissioned by the Canadian drug chain, 69% of the more than 1,000 adults polled said they would be equally or more likely to get a flu shot at a local pharmacy if they could.

"Today’s announcement highlights the value community pharmacy brings to improving convenient access to health care for Canadians," Scorpiniti added. "The flu immunization program is an example of collaboration between community pharmacy and government, resulting in improved access, healthier communities and overall health care cost mitigation."

Canada’s largest drug chain, Shoppers Drug Mart, said earlier this month that over 600 of its pharmacists in Ontario had completed their flu vaccination training, and flu clinics are slated to be offered in more than 460 stores.



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