The first shipment of flu shots has arrived in Nova Scotia, prompting the province's chief medical officer of health to urge as many people as possible to get vaccinated.
But Dr. Robert Strang also called on Nova Scotians to be patient Wednesday as pharmacies and doctors offices deal with the increased demand for flu shots amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's important that we have as many Nova Scotians as possible get the flu vaccine this fall," Strang told reporters.
"We need to minimize the chance of both COVID and influenza spreading at the same time and having a significant impact on our health-care system."
Strang said flu shots have been distributed to doctors, primary-care nurses and pharmacists. The flu shot is free to Nova Scotians.
He added there is usually a rush when the first round of flu shots arrive, but any time over the next eight weeks is a good time to get vaccinated in preparation for flu season.
"We're asking people to be patient," he said.
Health officials have stressed the importance of getting a flu vaccine this year, while many pharmacies have moved to appointment-only systems to reduce the number of people waiting in stores.
WATCH | Demand surges for flu shots as vaccination programs begin:
Already, pharmacists in the province say they've seen more interest in the flu vaccine this year.
"We've got lots of demand," said Robin Ogilvie, pharmacy manager of Guardian Rockingham Pharmacy in Halifax.
"We have some clinic times that are specifically booked with additional staff to manage the demand."
Ogilvie said his pharmacy received "most of what they had requested" on Tuesday. He said they ordered 25 per cent more than what was needed last year.
Erica Everett, pharmacy manager at the Pharmasave North End, said people began calling to ask about their flu shots in September.
"I had to tell them at the time, 'I don't even know when I'm getting them yet, call me back in October,'" she said.
"It's different every year and until Public Health tells you, you just don't know. But there's definitely an increased demand this year."
Everett said she planned to pick up her store's vaccines Wednesday.
"You put in your order, you cross your fingers, maybe knock on some wood and you see what you get," Everett said, adding she only booked a few days for flu shot appointments this week because it was unclear how many doses would be available.
"I think it's great that so many people are interested in the flu shot."
While the influenza vaccine does not protect against COVID-19, health experts say an increase in those getting the flu shot will help ease the strain on the health-care system, as well as limit the number of people exhibiting COVID-like symptoms and requiring tests.
The province said last month it had ordered five per cent more doses of the flu vaccine this year and can request more if needed.
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