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Oct. 21, 2021 | Thursday
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Flu shot made easier with virtual reality headsets
Sam Vanderlee, 12, is distracted with a virtual reality headset while receiving his flu shot on Monday at Stone Road Pharmacy. (Brittany Carter)

Niagara-on-the-Lake pharmacists are urging residents to get their flu shots now – and one pharmacy is using new technology to ease nervous patients through the door.

Julie Dyck, pharmacist-owner of Stone Road Pharmacy in Virgil, has a pair of virtual reality glasses to distract kids and adults alike while receiving their flu shot.

“It helps take their mind off the shot – no tears,” she said. The glasses virtually transport flu shot recipients underwater with a scuba diving app.

The Vanderlee family were the first to try out the glasses on Monday evening, with 12-year-old Sam Vanderlee stepping up first. He said the glasses helped to take his mind off the impending shot.

Stone Road Pharmacy is a member of Whole Health Pharmacy Partners, a national network of independent pharmacies.

The network launched the virtual reality experience for flu shots last year and was met with “extremely positive response from children and adults alike,” said a statement from Whole Health Pharmacy Partners.

“With the use of VR, patients become immersed in the video experience while being vaccinated by their pharmacist – decreasing both the fear and perception of injection pain. The aim is to improve immunization rates within each community, but also to enhance each patient’s overall experience,” the statement read.

Dyck said the shot is important to prevent the flu from spreading – even those who feel healthy can transmit the virus, she said. And getting the shot early is ideal.

“The sooner you get the flu shot the better because it takes a few days for the immunity to kick in,” said Dyck.

Already, she said the new pharmacy has administered an entire shipment of the quadrivalent flu vaccine, which protects against four strains of the flu virus. She said there’s been an “overwhelming response” with the flu shot since the pharmacy began administering on Oct. 24.

Pharmacies can give the vaccine to anyone five years and older, anyone younger will need to see a physician. The same is true for the high-dose vaccine, a trivalent flu vaccine with a higher dosage protecting against three strains of the flu, which is only available for seniors through a physician.

“The Ministry of Health hasn’t expanded (the high-dose vaccine) to pharmacist offices yet, but we’re hoping for it. We’re petitioning for that – so fingers crossed that next year we’ll have access to that,” Dyck said.

Simpson’s Pharmacy on Niagara Stone Road has administered at least 250 flu shots, said pharmacy manager and pharmacist Vicky Banka.

Banka said she encourages everyone to get the shot because “you not only protect yourself – you protect everyone around you.”

Leslie Alderman, supervisor of the vaccine and preventable disease program for Niagara Region public health, said 10 to 20 per cent of Canadians get the flu each year.

In Niagara, she said children nine years and younger most frequently go to the emergency room due to respiratory infections, including influenza.

“That results in anywhere from 4,000 to 5,000 ER visits, and about 400 to 500 hospitalizations annually in this age group,” Alderman said.

The vaccine is especially important for the vulnerable population, such as young children, pregnant women, adults 65 years of age and older, and people with certain medical conditions, she said.

Upcoming flu shot clinics

* On Monday, Nov. 11, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., there will be a flu shot  clinic for families with small children at the Boys and Girls Club in Niagara Falls.

* Stone Road Pharmacy at 1630 Niagara Stone Rd., Virgil accepts walk-ins and appointments during opening hours, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

* Simpson’s Pharmacy at 1882 Niagara Stone Road is taking appointments during opening hours from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. The pharmacy will hold a walk-in clinic on Friday, Nov. 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

* Simpson’s Apothecary at 233 King St. is taking appointments and is open 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.

* Shoppers Drug Mart at The Village accepts walk-ins but recommends an appointment to bypass long wait times, open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.