© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacist Ryan Coffin is urging the provincial government to allow pharmacist to presribe and give flu shots.
Provincial and national organizations say giving vaccinations would reduce health care costs and immunize more people
The Canadian Pharmacists Association is lobbying P.E.I. government to give Island pharmacists the power to administer common immunizations.
At the moment, pharmacists in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are doing just that — administering shots to guard against diseases such as influenza, polio, diphtheria, mumps and measles.
In order for the same thing to happen on P.E.I., government would have to authorize Island pharmacists by passing legislation and the earliest that could happen now is next spring.
"Pharmacists have the skills, they have the training and, most importantly, they're so accessible,'' Janet Cooper, senior director of professional and membership affairs for the Canadian Pharmacists Association, told The Guardian on Tuesday.
The World Health Organization says immunization saves between two and three million lives globally every year.
Authorizing pharmacists to give shots would also decrease the number of visits to family doctors and local clinics.
According to the Sustainable Solutions Report: A Focus on Immunizations released by Shoppers Drug Mart, the average cost to the health-care system for an influenza-related visit to a family doctor in Canada is $220 per person. The average cost for an influenza-related hospital stay (six days) is $6,418 per person.
Erin MacKenzie, executive director of the P.E.I. Pharmacists Association, said she surveyed drug stores across the province and, as of the end of November, half of all P.E.I. pharmacists were trained in administering immunizations and that number will increase by the end of January.
She has also had seven people come up to her, personally, recently asking to be immunized. People are hearing that the service is now offered elsewhere.
MacKenzie added that she has had talks with the Department of Health and is optimistic Island pharmacists will be authorized to administer vaccines by the spring sitting of the legislature.
The Guardian could not immediately reach Health and Wellness Minister Doug Currie for comment.
Charlottetown pharmacist Ryan Coffin said 75,000 people are hospitalized in Canada each year from the flu alone and up to 3,000 of them can die from complications.
"It has been shown that where pharmacists are immunizing for things like flu that the amount of people that get the flu shot increases from one to three per cent,'' Coffin said. "It helps (reduce) health-care costs. You are decreasing the number of people who see their family physician. Doctors are already overloaded.''
The number of Albertans, for example, vaccinated over the last two years has grown by more than 19 per cent.
Coffin said the pharmacists association in Newfoundland and Labrador estimates that by giving their pharmacists the authority to hand out shots that it will save the provincial government $1.1 million per year.
"On P.E.I., we've got the drug information system so that if we're vaccinating people at the store level it goes on their record as a normal prescription. Physicians can easily pull up whether they've had those vaccinations,'' Coffin said.
Cooper said Island pharmacists are ready and waiting.
"I'm quite optimistic that by the next flu season that we really will see it across the country,'' she said.