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Industry looking at more efficient ways to distribute flu shots

The Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia says that government distribution may not be the easiest or the fastest way to distribute flu vaccines
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The Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia says that government distribution may not be the easiest or the fastest way to distribute flu vaccines.

"Once a year, the government gets their 430-odd-thousand doses, and then they have to distribute that with the resources that they have at the moment," says Curt Chafe, Chair of the association.

Chafe says that government ships these doses to doctor's offices, pharmacies, and even hospitals. But that's not the case for how most medications are distributed.

"When you look at how medication is distributed in Canada today, there's three or four major distribution companies," he tells NEWS 95.7's The Todd Veinotte Show.

These companies include McKesson Canada, a large pharmaceutical distribution company that is headquartered in Germany but also operates in the U.S. Other large distributors include Shoppers Drug Mart's Specialty Health Network Inc.

"Those are responsible for pretty much distributing all medications throughout Canada," says Chafe. "Everything from tablets and liquids to high-priced injections that require some pretty strict temperature controls."

Because of the quantity of product they deal with, Chafe says these companies are efficient and know what they're doing.

"There's better tracking, there's better timeliness and delivery. Usually it's next-day delivery versus having to wait," he explains.

But on the other hand, the government only deals with drug distribution during flu season once a year.

"Of course there's going to be a little bit more of a lag. We just can't expect them to have the number of people to be that efficient," Chafe says.

This year in particular, some Nova Scotians complained about delayed arrival or low supply of the flu vaccine.

"If we could move vaccine delivery to one of those wholesalers where we've got better tracking, better accountability, and more timely service," says Chafe. "That would be fantastic."

Chafe says that these distributors have already gotten on board with delivering Naloxone kits and sharp needle boxes to Nova Scotians.

"We've got two projects that have been running in Nova Scotia for a while and they've been extremely successful," he explains. "They've got them warehoused and we can order them and get them shipped to receive the next day."

The Pharmacy Association says they have the same goal as the government: ensuring Nova Scotians are healthy.

"What we want to do is we want to be able to provide the product in a timely manner for people that need it," says Chafe.

Although the effectiveness of the flu vaccine hasn't been determined yet for this year, Chafe says in the past it's ranged anywhere from 30 to 70 per cent.

"Normally when we find those numbers out it's when people start getting sick," he says. "We've probably got about three to four weeks before we start seeing cases, and it'll be interesting to see it then."

NOTE: This is a corrected story, an earlier version identified the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia chair as Curt Chute.


Victoria  Walton

About the Author: Victoria Walton

Victoria is HalifaxToday.ca's weekend editor and a Halifax-based freelancer. She is originally from Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley.
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