The Pain of Getting a Flu Shot in Ontario

They say you shouldn’t write when your frustrated…or is that bake…well, whatever. I’m frustrated and I’m taking a risk by writing so be forewarned but I need to vent.

I heard, before school started this year, that Americans were getting their flu shots at the end of August. Ok, granted, they have to pay for it, but to me, that sounded like a good time. Imagine having your kids immunized before they even start school. That would be so convenient and effective. So, school started and I began asking around to the other mothers (one of them was a doctor), at the clinics, and at the pharmacy, when we could get our flu shots here in Ottawa. No one really knew. Not even the doctors or pharmacists. I thought that was very strange but what can you do if no one knows? I’ll wait a few weeks, I thought, surely by the beginning of October someone will know something.

Nothing. No news but the “Get your flu shot” emails started flying around so I figured, there’s gotta be information soon. It’s now the middle of October and I just found a list of flu clinics that START on October 30th here in Ottawa. So I picked up the phone and called our pediatrician’s office. I asked when flu shots would be available there.
“Are your kids high risk?” She asked.
“Well, we only get enough doses for high risk patients.”
So what if I can’t make it to a clinic, can we get one from the doctor then?
“Once all the clinics are closed (middle of December), if you still don’t have one, call us and we’ll see if we have any doses left.”
So, I basically have to go to a pharmacy or a City of Ottawa clinic (and stand in a long line) to get a shot, or I don’t get one.
“This is the way it’s been distributed.”
Great. Thanks.

Out of curiosity I checked The Public Health Agency of Canada’s website. They have a FluWatch calendar on which they clearly state that “Week 35 (August 28th) marks the beginning of the influenza surveillance season for 2011-12” in Canada. As of that date there were already cases of the flu in several locations in Canada, although not wide-spread by any stretch. But it is still out there. Let me do the math then. Flu season starts the end of August and we can’t get immunized until the end of October. That’s two months of virus brewing fun! Not only do we have to wait until mid flu season, in order to get immunized we have to jump through hoops (at least here in Ottawa) to get immunized. Knowing the general public, who are already wary of the effectiveness of the shot, how many do you think will go out of their way to get it? How does this protect the public? What am I missing here?

Every year we are bombarded with advertising recommending that we get the flu shot, that’s it’s very important to stop the spread of the virus. And yet it doesn’t seem to be a priority of the health agencies and doctors to get us immunized early and easily. I mean, why not have immunization clinics in schools? Why not stock all doctor’s clinics with enough doses to take care of all of their patients? (Of course the last time I tried to make an appointment with my doctor I was told I’d have to wait two months…but that’s another story). Why not have the immunizations available at drug stores at the end of August? Why not make it EASY??? What’s so hard about that?

Of course getting the flu shot is important and is particularly critical if you’re around babies, the elderly, or other people who are high risk. I’m not at all advocating not getting the shot…in case there was any misconception. I’ll be getting one and will likely trudge out to one of these clinics AND I probably won’t be happy about it – in fact, I plan not to be (oh yes, I’m holding a grudge).

Of course I’ll be there…IF I don’t get the flu first!

To Get Your Flu Shot if you’re in Ottawa:
City of Ottawa Clinics
Shoppers Drug Mart Clinics


11 thoughts on “The Pain of Getting a Flu Shot in Ontario

  1. That’s what I call a contradiction!
    Asking a queston posed on your blog: you’ll never find someone who can make it easier (being it almost anything) wheh they cam make it harder. I just had an episode this afternoon. I issued a professional invoice, where you have to put the amount in letters AND in numbers. That’s the law, I’m used to that. But this woman called me and said: “we can’t accept your invoice because you wrote: S/. XXX in numbers and XXXX nuevos soles (Peruvian currency) but there is no 00/100 on the amount in letter”. I argued there was no need, because the amount doesn’t have any cents. No, she said, it’s a disposition from the taxes authority. You have to issue a new invoice.
    Guess what? There is no such disposition. The regulation just says: the amount must be expressed with numbers and letters. There is no such thing as “adding the XX/100 nuevos soles) is a must”.
    Should we introduce this Peruvian lady with Canadian health authorities? Let’s be matchmakers!
    (Sorry for this loooong comment!)


    1. Oh, Gabriela. Don’t appologize for a long comments! I love them! 🙂 Red tape and the people on power trips that like to pull the tape from their holders and wrap it around your head and hands. Ugh. Good matches they are indeed!!


  2. This post comes at a time when I’m lying in bed after being run over by a reckless cold. Before I started taking the flu shot I used to suffer from this type of onslaught at least once every year. Now when it hits it’s usually less capricious than before. The funny thing is that, among the many problems we have in Syria, the flu shot is available at health care centers and for free but very few people actually know about it thus take advantage of it. Governments, by virtue of existing alone, tend to be stupid. It’s not the principle of public service that is inherently bad but rather the people it attracts to work in it I guess. Oh well, the antihistamine drugs I’m taking just kicked in. I’d better stop while I’m still ahead. Or am I? 🙂


    1. Abufares, I’m so sorry to hear you’re sick. Well, hopefully if you need medication from a doctor you won’t have to wait a few months for it. It sounds as if Syria’s got part of it’s immunization program right…they just need to pin posters everywhere. We’ve got the poster part right…but not the availability of the medication. Sigh…I agree with you and Gabriela…governments are stupid. Get better soon! 🙂


  3. Flu jabs are pushed by the government here relentlessly and it is not a bad idea as it actually saves taxpayers money (no hospital beds required due to flu onslaught averted). Interestingly you can actually get one in many supermarkets; I got mine whilst shopping for groceries in Sainsbury’s! I know that’s little comfort to you however.


    1. Now that’s efficient and convenient, Paul. I would have been immunized by now if they had clinics in the grocery store. Great idea! I agree that fighting the flu head on with immunization saves money in the end. This is what confounds me the most about our situation here. It just doesn’t make sense, economically or otherwise.


  4. Government and their Health Regulations are the problem! There is not enough production of the Flu shot, so that is probably why your doctor said people at risk are first priority. At home (and we are part of the USA) is the same story. I have been lucky to just have the flu once in my life in 1995. I have never been vaccinated for it. The flu will knock you down for at least a week, if you are a healthy person to start with. If your health is poor, you can be in serious trouble. Still, we do not get enough vaccines to take care of everyone for flu season. They are offering in all the Walgreens Pharmacies now, but have special days separated for getting it. I have not tried this yet… Probably after a long line, they will say they do not have enough vaccines…

    I hope your children do not get sick this season, or that you are able to vaccinate them soon. Take care,


    1. Well, you know Hebe, if they don’t have enough vaccine…they shouldn’t market it for everyone. It just doesn’t make sense. Or maybe they should try making more…just a thought. 🙂 Yes, the flu can be quite nasty and if possible, I’d like to avoid it…I’d especially like my kids to avoid it. I hope you and your family stay healthy this year too, Hebe. Great to see you. Thanks for dropping by and commenting.


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