A new initiative to have members of the public get a COVID-19 vaccine shot at the pharmacy has been in place in Sudbury for just over a week and appears to be working according to plan. The system was set up to complement the conventional vaccine program in Ontario by offering residents aged 55 and older the opportunity to visit a local pharmacy, similar to the way many residents have taken a flu shot in the past.
The difference, said Shoppers Drug Mart owner Terry Bristow of Sudbury, is that vaccine recipients must book ahead, by doing an online inquiry.
"The process in-pharmacy is almost identical to what you would have experienced if you received your flu shot in one of our pharmacies this fall. The main difference is that COVID vaccines are available by appointment only, whereas the flu shot was offered on a walk-in basis," said Bristow in an email interview.
Residents can do a quick and easy search online by home computer or smartphone by entering their postal code. A search using a Sudbury postal code turns up several pharmacy locations in nearby communities in Northeastern Ontario, including Sudbury, Elliot Lake, Sturgeon Falls and North Bay.
In the immediate Sudbury area, residents can select from Shoppers Drug Mart on Long Lake Road, Rexall pharmacy on Highway 69 North in Val Caron, and the Walden Family Drugstore on Regional Road 24 in Lively.
In each case, a person can click on the pharmacy of their choice, which will open an appointment page. Residents are invited to register their name, their age and phone number. There is also a short list of questions about whether you have an autoimmune condition, any allergies or if you're pregnant or breastfeeding. If there is no website, there should be a phone number.**
"As appointments become available, those who have already registered will be contacted to book an appointment. We kindly ask that you arrive at the store at the time of your appointment, not before, to ensure we’re ready for you," said Bristow.
"Upon arrival for their appointment, patients will be asked to complete a screening and consent form. After they receive the vaccination from the pharmacist, they will be asked to wait in the store for at least 15 minutes under observation for any adverse reaction," Bristow explained.
He added that patients would receive an immunization record as well as some post-vaccination tips and guidance on what to do if they experience side effects.
Bristow said a dedicated pharmacist will administer the vaccine in a private consultation room. At all times, the pharmacist and the patient must be wearing personal protective equipment he added.
Patients are asked to bring their current Ontario Health card, a list of current prescriptions and any relevant information on their current health status.
Len Gillis is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter at Sudbury.com. He covers health care in Northern Ontario.
**Corrected information added at 1:30 p.m. April 9th with respect to using a phone number if no website is present.