BC pharmacists help deliver immunizations for influx of refugees

VANCOUVER, Jan. 28, 2016 /CNW/ - As B.C. prepares to welcome an influx of refugees from Syria, community pharmacists are stepping up to help fill the gap in providing immunizations for newcomers. In addition to the health-care expertise offered by all B.C. pharmacists, more than 40 community pharmacists across the province have also offered their Arabic language skills to help in the orientation, immunization, and settlement process for new arrivals.

Today a family of privately sponsored Syrian refugees who recently arrived in Canada visited a Shoppers Drug Mart in Surrey to get immunized by a community pharmacist. Pharmacist Mohamed Kayed immunized some members of the Alkarkhi family, made up of Fadhil and Hayfaa AlKarkhi (father and mother) and their four teenage children Marwah, Maryam, Malak and Marwan (aged between 14 and 18).

The family was welcomed by Health Minister Terry Lake, Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Stephanie Cadieux and BC Pharmacy Association Board member Mark Dickson.

"B.C. has long been a welcoming place for immigrants and refugees, and we're working hard to ensure newcomers have access to the health care they need to start healthy lives here in Canada," said Health Minister Terry Lake. "Pharmacies are valuable partners in this work, offering a number of important health care services in communities throughout the province, which can help support refugees in maintaining their health."

Officials estimate about 3,500 government-sponsored refugees will arrive in BC before the year end. Community pharmacists are offering their support to help with both public- and privately-sponsored refugees needing emergency refills of prescriptions or immunizations.

"I'm proud to see our local pharmacists going above and beyond the call of duty to help refugees," said Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Stephanie Cadieux. "As front-line health care providers, pharmacists can offer a friendly and welcoming introduction to life in our beautiful province."

"When we made the call to see how pharmacists could help, our members from across the province immediately stepped up," said Geraldine Vance, CEO of the BC Pharmacy Association, which represents 3,000 community pharmacists and more than 850 pharmacies throughout British Columbia. "Our members, located in all parts of the province, are one of the most accessible health-care providers, and they want to ensure new immigrants have a seamless transition to Canada."

Now more than ever, pharmacies have become an accessible and convenient option for getting immunized. In the 2014/15 flu season, it's estimated that BC pharmacists gave nearly half a million flu shots. This is up from nearly 30,000 shots in the 2009/10 flu season, when pharmacists were first given the authority to administer injections.

It's easy for refugees to find a convenient location to visit as nearly 94 per cent of all pharmacies in BC have at least one pharmacist authorized to give immunizations (more than 3,400 pharmacists across the province).

Pharmacists in BC can immunize refugees against more than just the influenza virus. They can also immunize individuals over five years of age against illnesses like pneumonia, human papillomavirus (HPV), shingles and tetanus.

About the BC Pharmacy Association

The British Columbia Pharmacy Association is a not-for-profit professional association that represents more than 3,000 pharmacists and more than 850 pharmacies throughout British Columbia. Recognized as the voice for community pharmacy, the Association aims to support and advance the professional role and economic viability of its members so they may provide enhanced patient-centred care.

SOURCE British Columbia Pharmacy Association

For further information: Matilda Meyers, Manager, Communications, matilda.meyers@bcpharmacy.ca, 604-269-2866


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