Co-CEO & Chief Strategy, Stakeholder, & Government Relations Officer, OnPharm-United
Ontarians’ immune health and access to immunization have become more important than ever and pharmacies are playing a vital role.
In the early days of the pandemic, our health care system was stretched thin. Line-ups for COVID-19 testing snaked around buildings, hospitals started filling, and many doctors began working from home. “Fortunately, Ontario pharmacies were available to help ease the increased constraints on the health care system,” says Sherif Guorgui, Co-CEO and Chief Strategy, Stakeholder, and Government Relations Officer at OnPharm-United, a network of more than 600 independent pharmacy owners across Ontario.
Pharmacists and pharmacy staff were on the front lines, conducting COVID-19 tests as soon as they could. This year, they’ve been administering COVID-19 vaccines since March.
“Over 1.8 million flu shots and over 3.3 million COVID-19 shots have been administered in Ontario pharmacies this year,” says Guorgui, adding that “offering the vaccine at pharmacies is a convenient, safe, and effective way to make sure that Ontarians’ needs are met.”
Taking pressure off our health care system
These numbers highlight the extent to which pharmacies play a significant role in alleviating the pressure on Ontario’s health care system. Ontario pharmacists have been administering flu vaccines for nearly a decade and can also provide a variety of other vaccines, from travel vaccines to vaccination against HPV, shingles, and more.
“As the government continues to look for effective ways to get more Ontarians vaccinated, it’s imperative that it includes pharmacy as part of the solution,” says Guorgui.
To sustain that viability and alleviate the pressures our health care system is under, expanding pharmacists’ and pharmacy technicians’ scope of practice is an important next step to keep our communities healthy and safe. Guorgui also notes the importance of adopting a fair and equitable funding model.