Flu season is an annual challenge, but 2020’s vaccine rollout amid the global COVID-19 pandemic has sparked the creativity and organizational skills of physicians across BC. Doctors are working with each other, other healthcare workers, and partners, ensuring British Columbians have access to immunizations in this unprecedented time.
In Vancouver, physicians are joining forces with partners to meet the immunization demand across the city. Dr Fiona Duncan, physician lead of the Vancouver Division of Family Practice (VDoFP), says open and timely communication with members was key to their immunization strategy. Member physicians flagged areas such as PPE, clinic space, and patient flow; and together with partners such as the City of Vancouver and Vancouver Coastal Health, the division quickly identified shared goals. An action plan soon followed.
Working with the City, the division helped physicians organize logistics and permits to create sidewalk and other outdoor immunization hubs, such as the one set up at Bayswater Family Practice in Kitsilano. Physicians worked on the sidewalk adjacent to four closed-off metered parking spots to safely immunize patients over the course of a late October weekend.
UBC medical students are also offering their services to family physicians across the city, with division making 75 matches between students and offices. “We've had really good feedback, both from students and from clinics who found it really helpful to them and students in a variety of ways. It's been pretty cool.” says Dr Duncan.
A new vaccine delivery pilot project is also a feature for the division this year, after physicians voiced their wish to obtain vaccine in a more efficient way. While still in its proof-of-concept stage, doctors’ offices across the city have signed up for the initiative.
For the division, the time spent developing these strategies is part of a longer-term goal – administering the eventual COVID-19 vaccine, says Brian Rowland, Primary Care Network Implementation Director. Dr Duncan emphasizes the importance of planning now:
“One of the biggest learnings from all of this is we need to get as far out in front of COVID-19 vaccine planning as we can. We know what's coming.”
Dr Shelley Ross, a Burnaby physician, has a clear message for pregnant women in BC: “Get your flu shot!” It’s important, says Dr Ross, because the flu can increase complications like preterm labour. And it’s especially important this year, with the pandemic and flu season happening at the same time.
The challenge is that pregnant women are often reluctant to take the vaccine because they may be worried about complications, or they may feel they have never had the flu shot and there is no need to start now. In addition, with the COVID-19 pandemic in its second wave, getting an appointment for a flu shot has become increasingly difficult.
Doctors at the Burnaby Maternity Clinic got to work. Located at Burnaby Hospital, they pulled the perinatal team together – discussions quickly took place with the perinatal manager, pharmacy and public health. The clinic had not delivered the flu shot in the past, but decided this year to do things differently. Their order was submitted, and the flu shots appeared within days to be stored in a fridge with a thermometer that had magically appeared in the maternity clinic.
“Now, rather than just recommending the flu shot, patients’ questions and concerns can be answered, and immunization can be incorporated into a routine prenatal visit the same day,” says Dr Ross. “We are in our second week of administering the flu shots and the uptake has been over 90%. With very little effort, we are making a big impact on the lives of our patients.”
Throughout the province, doctors and their partners are working together to get flu shots to patients during this pandemic. We want to hear your stories. What is your clinic, division or other group of doctors doing to help? Connect with us at