Alberta, don’t be so aggressive with your flu shot campaigns

Alberta’s 2016 flu campaign was very aggressive.

Admittedly, I come from a family of healthcare professionals and I am in pharmacy at the UofA, so I am rather familiar with the flu shot campaign. However, it is undeniable flu clinics were available everywhere this past flu season: your local recreation centre, some LRT stations, and, for some reason, Rogers Place.

Flu shots prevent high-risk individuals such as the elderly from contracting the flu as the flu can result in other long term, much more serious complications. They also help prevent health care professionals who are in an environment of constant exposure from getting sick. The general public is encouraged to get a flu shot in order to protect themselves as well as to protect high-risk individuals that they are exposed to.

In the larger scheme, a flu shot could result in a lessened burden on healthcare due to resulting lowered hospital costs, as less people should be getting sick. The Alberta Government also believes in the flu shot and allows practitioners to bill about $20 for each flu shot. If you think about it financially, a pharmacist who administers 1,000 flu shots makes $20,000 for their services. A flu shot takes about five minutes to administer and about 15 minutes altogether for the entire service of collecting the patient’s information and ensuring that there are no adverse effects. It’s a timely service with huge financial potential.

The problem with flu shots this past year is that it seems like Alberta health care professionals have realized how much money there is to be made off flu shots. Practitioners set up flu shot clinics anywhere and everywhere possible, claiming it was for accessibility purposes, but in some situations, it just seemed like a race to get to clients first before they walked into their regular pharmacy. Flu shots being offered at Rogers Place by Rexall Pharmacies­­­­­ — both which are owned by Daryl Katz — seems like a money grab. Maybe they were trying to get the last few Alberta residents who had not been immunized or they were trying to finish up their remaining influenza stock. Nothing about offering it at Rogers Place makes me think that they were trying to increase accessibility. Pharmacies, which do a bulk of the influenza vaccines now, are on what seems like every other corner and are incredibly accessible. During a flu campaign, they are additionally staffed in order to accommodate everyone. I am confident that if someone wanted a flu shot, they would have easily been able to go to their pharmacy. Even though, flu shots are most effective when they are administered to more of population, it is still a clinical service and should be treated as such.

When we make decisions about our health, we can be educated and reasoned with, but they are our choices alone to make. Getting a flu shot should not be a decision made out of convenience but an active decision made by an individual with intent and understanding of what the purpose of the flu shot is.

One Comment

  1. Did you know Quebec is currently studying weather or not to completely get rid of the general recommendation to the flu shot. The shot should just be for the chronically sick.
    - They say the flu shot is not very effective and also repeat flu shots stop working or can make you more likely to get sick.
    See this amazing site on the flu shot.

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