OTTAWA -- The peak of flu season is only weeks away and pharmacies and clinics are working hard to get as many shots in arms as possible.

Pharmacist and owner of Gabriel Drugs, Heidi Gabriel, has administered 500 flu shots in just the past three weeks.

“We are seeing an influx of people asking for the flu shot and a lot of people are eager to get it,” says Gabriel.

Health experts say the flu season could return with a vengeance because there are fewer COVID-19 restrictions this year compared to last, when there was little flu activity.

Some pharmacies are seeing a supply issue with the high-dose formula of the flu shot meant for seniors and those with health complications. Experts say it’s still better to get the regular dose, which is very effective, rather than waiting for the high-dose shot and possibly catching the flu.

“We are seeing steady supply with the vaccines; however, the high-doses are in limited supply,” says Gabriel. “But we are getting them on a regular basis.”

To help during the pandemic, pharmacy technicians were approved to administer COVID-19 vaccines alongside pharmacists, but they still have not been approved to administer the flu shot, which Gabriel says is slowing things down.

“We are awaiting the Ministry of Health approval to authorize the pharmacy technicians to administer flu shots,” says Gabriel. “When this happens, I believe it will be great help in the process.”

CEO of the Ontario Pharmacists Association, Justin Bates, says so far, the flu vaccine rollout has been a success in Ontario.

“We’ve administered approximately 500,000 through pharmacy, flu shots so far,” says Bates. “Which is a good pace if you look at last year we did just under two million for the entire season.”

Just last week, the Ontario Ministry of Health said that COVID-19 vaccines can be given at the same time, or any time before or after other vaccines, rather than waiting 14 days, which was the previous practice.

“You can basically make an appointment, get your flu shot and, if you still require a vaccine for COVID-19, we can administer that as well,” says Bates.

Ottawa Public Health's community flu clinics start Tuesday with four locations available right now in Ottawa. They are by appointment only and are eligible to Ottawa residents who meet a certain criteria:

  • People six months to two years of age and their household members;
  • Newcomers to Canada;
  • Those without an Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP card);
  • Those without a primary care provider, such as a doctor or nurse; and
  • Those who have had difficulty accessing the vaccine at a pharmacy

Medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches says this year’s flu season should be taken seriously and is urging everyone to get their shot.

“Getting your annual flu vaccine is an important way to protect yourself, your family, and high-risk individuals in the community against the seasonal flu,” says Etches.

There are roughly 4,000 pharmacies in Ontario right now where people can get their flu shot. The majority of them require appointments.

Gabriel says you need an appointment at her pharmacy as well, but she can make an exception if need be.

“We understand that not everybody is computer savvy, especially the seniors, so we do welcome walk-ins,” says Gabriel, “If I have them on hand, I will certainly welcome anybody as a walk-in if need be.”