Ontario pharmacies facing flu shot shortages


Graphic by Daniya Siddique

According to the head of the Ontario Pharmacists Association, pharmacies across the province have seen a 500 per cent increase in demand for the flu shot in 2020 compared to last year.  

4.6 million doses of vaccine were administered in Ontario as of Oct. 28, with only 1.4 million distributed last year at the same time in 2019.  

COVID-19 outbreaks are expected to worsen during the winter months and with the onset of cold and flu season, which has contributed to the rise in demand for flu shots.  

People who are most at risk for complications from the flu include babies under six months, children under five, people 65 and over, pregnant people and those with underlying health conditions.  

Some symptoms of the flu are similar to the symptoms presented with COVID-19 and people are encouraged to get a COVID-19 test if they need help to confirm a definite diagnosis.  

People who have the flu are advised to stay home and rest.  

“A large part of the demand increase is the greater awareness, certainly with the pandemic and a lot of the education out there on the importance of getting the flu shot to avoid any capacity issues with the health-care system related to the flu,” Justin Bates said to Global News.  

Flu shot shortages have already been occurring in pharmacies throughout Ontario, and Waterloo region is no exception.   

Rexall pharmacy has “temporarily paused” flu shots amid the shortage, resulting in the cancellation of appointments.  

Acting medical officer of health in Waterloo Region, Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, told councillors that “We’ve obviously highlighted this to the province and they are doing their best to get us more supply as it comes in from the manufacturer.” 

Wang is urging people to be patient while they wait for a restock of vaccines, and to book appointments so they can get a flu shot when the next shipment arrives.  

General health recommendations state that it’s best to get a flu shot in November, so there is still time for people to get one.  

It’s anticipated that more vaccines will continue to be received by the province and the region is will continue to receive updates about the supply. 

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