LONDON, ONT. -- With the province now in a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the flu season is also about to start knocking on the door.

"Influenza season itself in terms of the arrival of the virus can happen anytime between October through to the beginning of December," says Dr. Alex Summers, associate medical officer of health at the Middlesex-London Health Unit. "We never know exactly when flu season is going to arrive which is why it’s important to get vaccinated early."

Flu vaccines are being prepared across the region with the hopes of distribution beginning in a couple of weeks. It’s been a busy and challenging time as health officials juggle the pandemic while rolling out the flu shot. 

"Influenza vaccine and the distribution of the vaccine has been made a priority for the health unit so we are ready to get the vaccine out the door," says Summers. 

It’s predicted many people will also be waiting at the door ready to get vaccinated for influenza. 

"When we look at our southern neighbours who have already gone through the flu season, there was a 25 per cent increase in vaccinations," says Nick Vander Gulick, pharmacist at London’s downtown Shoppers Drug Mart. "We are in the back of our mind looking at a higher increase in demand and we have lots of supplies and stuff to meet that."

Just like in previous years pharmacies will be administering the flu shot this year. Even the few pharmacies that are doing COVID-19 testing in the city will administer the flu shot.

"We knew the fall was going to be a challenge and so we have hired up during the summer and so we will have lots of staff to help you make sure the experience is good," Vander Gulick adds. 

The health unit also says anything the public can do to protect themselves and help ease the burden on hospitals is key this fall heading into winter. Summers says that’s because hospitals will be dealing with both COVID-19 and influenza cases.

"Illness like influenza leads to more than 3,000 deaths across Canada every year and so it’s important whether it’s a pandemic or not to get that vaccine."