The 2017-2018 flu season is being described by health officials as one of the worst flu seasons to hit in many years, especially affecting those in high-risk groups, such as the elderly and those with chronic illnesses. More than 550,000 people received a flu shot from their pharmacist in 2016-2017, an increase of 27 per cent over the previous year. The BC Pharmacy Association predicts a similar – if not increased – number of patients for the 2017-2018 season.
In an effort to provide support for community pharmacists, bring awareness to the flu epidemic and encourage British Columbians to visit their local pharmacist for their flu shot, a media and social media campaign “Say No to Flu” was launched in late October. A media release was distributed Oct. 26, announcing the campaign to major news outlets across B.C. and nationwide. More than 127 online news outlets posted the story, reaching approximately 190,000 potential online viewers. Distribution in B.C. media alone had a potential reach of 6.8 million. Portions of the release were posted in major provincial outlets including the Vancouver Sun, The Province, Montreal Gazette, Calgary Herald and the Edmonton Journal.
Several pharmacist members were enlisted to help promote the campaign and provide their expert opinion on the importance of getting vaccinated for this flu season. Member pharmacists Jamie Wigston and Helena Cui, were featured by major outlets - Global News (National), Sing Tao (Vancouver – Chinese), Radio NL 610 (Kamloops) and CKNW 980 AM (Vancouver).
BCPhA CEO Geraldine Vance was also featured in the Province of British Columbia’s news release on Nov. 8, 2017, providing a quote on the importance of getting a flu vaccination early.
BCPhA designed an online poster of “Say No to Flu” facts for members to print for use at their pharmacy counter. The flu facts were also designed as social media postings and placed on BCPhA’s newly launched Facebook and Twitter accounts, with retweets alone reaching over 6,000 followers.
With more than 3,400 community pharmacists in B.C. authorized to provide immunizations, it is estimated that the number of flu shots given by pharmacists could reach more than half a million. To ensure high-risk groups are immunized, including caregivers who also need protection, pharmacists can provide frontline access to flu shots onsite at local pharmacies and offsite clinics such as senior centres.
Influenza is unpredictable but there are patterns that can be tracked to determine particular strains. In this case, the predominant strain is H3N2, with documented cases in Australia and South Asia. It is considered one of the more severe strains since it first arrived three years ago but has
evolved into subtypes, making it even more serious.
Want to get more involved in promoting the role of pharmacists providing flu shots in your area? Contact Shirley Wong or (604) 269-2866. Don’t forget to follow the Association’s social media channels and use the hashtag #SayNoToFlu.