600+ community pharmacies offering RSV vaccines in B.C.

Updated on March 14, 2024 (Originally posted on February 1, 2024) The Tablet
Rsv vaccine

Looking for an RSV vaccine? Find a pharmacy offering immunizations near you at https://www.bcpharmacy.ca/rsv-vaccines

By Michael Mui, Communications Manager, BCPhA

More than 600 pharmacies in British Columbia have been providing immunizations against the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) since Health Canada approved a vaccine in August 2023.

The first vaccine, Arexvy, was approved last year for the prevention of lower respiratory tract disease in adults 60 years or older. A second RSV vaccine, ABRYSVO™, was approved in January 2024 for people who are 32 to 36 weeks pregnant for the prevention of lower respiratory tract disease caused by RSV in infants. 

RSV causes yearly outbreaks of respiratory tract disease, usually starting in late fall and running through to early spring. Those with the illness usually receive cold-like symptoms, but it can also cause more serious respiratory illness. It is transmitted when coughs or sneezes from an infected person comes into contact with the eyes, nose, mouth or airway of another person. 

The vaccines are not funded by the province of British Columbia and instead must be purchased from pharmacies that are offering it. To book a RSV vaccine, visit bcpharmacy.ca/rsv-vaccines.

Shyrr Lelis, pharmacist at Pharmasave Mount Pleasant in and Pharmasave City Square in Vancouver, said she’s been receiving regular interest from seniors inquiring about the RSV vaccine since the fall public vaccine campaign began. Most patients, she said, heard about the availability of the vaccine through the news or from other health-care providers. The same day the second vaccine was approved, Lelis already had a patient inquire about it. 

“The news spreads so quickly. It’s great that the public are aware of these announcements, that also prompts us as pharmacists to make sure that we are on top of things,” she said. 

joan philip shyrr lelis

Shyrr Lelis (right), pharmacist at Pharmasave Mount Pleasant, provides immunizations for a visting delegation from MLA Joan Phillip's office.

er month have been coming in for the first RSV vaccine since her stores began offering them in October 2023. 
“I did a lot of COVID vaccine clinics before, and kept in touch with some of the staff. One of the nurses who worked in Sechelt this season commented that they had numerous inquiries about RSV vaccine and even they were unsure of where to get them,” Lelis said. 

“Patients often don’t know exactly where to get them and here at the pharmacy we were actually surprised at how many RSV vaccines we have provided in our stores.”

Imran Rajani, pharmacy owner of Wescana Pharmacy Delta, agreed that the majority of inquiries he received about the RSV vaccine were from seniors. Most frequently, those who called wanted to know about the cost of the vaccine and where they could get one. For this group of patients who are actively seeking out the vaccine, the vast majority had done their research and were seeking to get the most protection possible during the respiratory illness season.

Other patients opted to purchase the RSV vaccine after coming in for their seasonal COVID and flu shots and learning of the RSV vaccine from pharmacy staff. 

“These people didn’t really know about it, but we would explain to them that this is a new vaccine for RSV, and we would explain what it prevents against, who the vaccine is intended for, and share with them the data about severity of illness and rate of hospitalizations. This helps put things into perspective for the patient, when let’s say, compared to the benefits of receiving the influenza vaccine or the pneumonia vaccine,” Rajani said.

For Arexvy, the first approved RSV vaccine, pharmacies have been generally charging between $250 to $300. Rajani said the cost was often a factor in whether a patient who learned about the RSV vaccine went through with receiving it. 

Most of the patients who received the vaccine had a prescription along with third-party insurance, covering 50 to 80 per cent of the cost, Rajani said.

Despite the cost, Rajani said he’s not surprised so many have been seeking to be protected from RSV. He credits an increased awareness among the public of vaccine preventable illnesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“There’s been sort of a mindset change over the last three or four years. People are a lot more aware of respiratory illnesses and the harm and danger that they can potentially pose,” he said. 

“After COVID, people are realizing that RSV is something that can also get them really sick, especially in the populations above 60 and in children under nine years old.” 

To book a RSV vaccine, visit bcpharmacy.ca/rsv-vaccines.


The above is a paid advertisement. For advertising inquiries, please contact michael.mui@bcpharmacy.ca

This article is featured in The Tablet. The Tablet features pharmacy and industry news, profiles on B.C. pharmacists, information on research developments and new products.