Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for January 8, 2014

Local pharmacists look to administer vaccines

Imagine dropping by the drug store to pick up a prescription, a few items for the house and getting a flu shot while you’re there.

By Stephanie Waddell on January 8, 2014 at 4:23 pm


Photo by Vince Fedoroff

ADVANTAGES ARE CLEAR – Joanne Gibson, the pharmacist owner of the Shoppers store in the Qwanlin Mall, says the concept of pharmacists administering vaccines could reduce health care costs and visits to hospitals from people seeking their shots. Brendan Hanley

Imagine dropping by the drug store to pick up a prescription, a few items for the house and getting a flu shot while you’re there.

Local pharmacists are hopeful that could be a reality should the territory’s Pharmacist’s Act be rewritten.

Shoppers Drug Mart recently released a report called the Sustainable Solutions Report: A Focus On Immunization.

It details the benefits that could come from permitting pharmacists to administer vaccinations. It also calls for pharmacists across the country to be able to administer flu and other common vaccinations.

The report also urges improvements to electronic communications among health care workers.

As Joanne Gibson, the pharmacist owner of the Shoppers store in the Qwanlin Mall, explained in an interview Monday, local pharmacists want to incorporate offering vaccines into the work they already do.

It’s a practice that’s seen success in other jurisdictions like Alberta, British Columbia and Nova Scotia, she said, with an increase of one to three per cent of residents getting vaccinated.

While Gibson said that may not seem like a lot, it means reduced health care costs and fewer hospitals visits as patients are more likely to be vaccinated.

She noted she believes the increase in the number of vaccinations when pharmacists can administer them comes from the convenience that a pharmacy can offer.

That applies to both the hours it’s open and the fact a number of people already drop in to their local pharmacy for other reasons.

The existing relationship with their pharmacist could also assist in ensuring vaccinations are administered, Gibson said.

A pharmacist could simply ask customers picking up prescriptions if they want their flu shot as well, she noted.

“It’s a change in the work pattern,” she said when questioned about the heavier workload it could mean for pharmacists.

Currently, pharmacists coming out of school are trained in administering vaccines. Those who have been working for a while would get the required training, she said.

She hopes work on a modern Pharmacist’s Act will begin “yesterday,” and that any changes will present opportunities for pharmacists to take on a larger role in in the health care field.

Among other changes Gibson would like to see are provisions in the act that could allow pharmacists to adapt prescriptions and be able to issue emergency refills should the need arise, thus reducing strain on the health care system.

Brendan Hanley, the territory’s chief medical officer of health, said he supports pharmacists having expanded roles as health care providers. However, he said, there are a number of factors to be considered.

“There could be a role,” he said. “We would have to be careful how we integrate pharmacists into the system.”

As he explained, there is already a good monitoring system in place to keep track of vaccines as well as patient information.

He pointed out that having vaccines administered primarily through public health (with the exception of the flu vaccine being available through some doctors who submit their information to public heath) means it’s easy to find out if a patient should have additional vaccinations like a tetanus shot or any shots that may have been missed previously.

He also noted that there’s an evaluation done on travel vaccinations, looking at individual circumstances – where someone is travelling, the length of the stay, season of travel and so on – when assessing what travel vaccinations a person may need.

If pharmacists were to provide travel vaccinations, it would be important that sort of evaluation would continue.

Hanley is cautious about having vaccinations provided at pharmacies in the territory.

He also suggested that should it be determined there’s a need with careful planning, it is a possibility.

“There certainly are ways to do that,” he said.

Pat Living, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Services, said it’s expected a review of the Pharmacists Act – affecting 37 registered pharmacists in the territory will be done this year.

The original act was adopted in 1955. It has been amended over the years, with the last changes coming into place in 2010.

CommentsAdd a comment


Jan 8, 2014 at 7:15 pm

I think Shoppers should concentrate on filling prescriptions since they do not seem to know how to do it without making you wait two hours. Six people working and no prescriptions for two hours. Ridiculous.


Jan 8, 2014 at 8:23 pm

*I am a former Whitehorse resident, and live in BC now. All the pharmacies in my community offer flu shots. It’s perfect. It is accommodating to shift workers, and for seniors or those with mobility issues it can eliminate an extra trip if they are already getting meds or other items at the pharmacy.
I know of people here who got the flu shot because it was convenient to go to the pharmacy after work hours, and they may not have gone if they had to leave work in the day.  The end result is more people get immunized.  I personally did all my immunizations at the health clinic in Whitehorse, and when we moved it was easy to get a print-out and provided it to our health center here in BC.
I agree with keeping the main immunizations in one location - it would help prevent duplication on any shots if someone forgot they had it.  But for something like the flu shot that is annual, why not have the pharmacists do it?  It provides a public service.  Signed, L.,  Van. Island.

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