At the Glenmore Pharmasave in Kelowna, B.C., an item that’s not usually a big summertime seller is in high demand,
“This time of year, we don’t normally sell a lot of cough and cold remedies,” said pharmacist Craig Tostenson. “But we’ve sold a lot more than we normally do. In July, we sold about twice as much as we normally would in July.”
Tostenson attributed the brisk sale of cold remedies to the ongoing spread of COVID-19.
“Cough medicines, fever, medications, runny nose, which are all mild symptoms that can be attributed to COVID,” he told Global News.
Heightened demand combined with chain supply constraints have even led to a shortage of certain medications, including Children’s Tylenol.
Tostenson said many pharmacies, including his, are now rationing sales and limiting the medication to one per customer.
He said other provinces are taking an ever stricter approach.
“In some provinces, they are actually making it prescription…to control people accessing it, ” Tostenson said.
The most prevalent strain making the rounds right now is the Omicron subvariant BA.5, which has many people catching the virus for the very first time since the pandemic began.
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“Highly transmissible,” said Interior Health (IH) medical health officer Dr. Dr. Fatemeh Sabet. “It means that the rate of the transmission from a person that is infected to other people around you is higher than the previous variants. However, the good news is that the severity of the new variant is lower.”
According to IH, there are currently 72 people hospitalized due to COVID in our region. Six of them are in intensive care.
IH said those numbers are considered stable and at a plateaued level compared to previous hospitalization rates.
Despite more manageable hospital numbers, Sabet said many people are experiencing longer durations of symptoms and for the older and more vulnerable demographic, the virus continues to take its toll.
“We are seeing outbreaks continuing in our long-term care facilities in the older population and we are still seeing unfortunate fatalities within this population,” Sabet said.
Newly-designed COVID booster shots targeting Omicron strains are expected to be available within weeks and .just in time for the fall season when more Omicron offshoots are likely to circulate.
“This is a type of virus that’s mutates so often, so we expect to see new variants coming especially with the fall,” she said.
Sabet said people have to assess their risk to determine whether to get a regular booster now or wait for the Omicron-specialized vaccine.
“If they are planning to travel or if they are planning to go to crowded places if they have any underlying condition or are taking care of people that are vulnerable to severe outcomes of infection, we recommend them to get their booster as soon as possible if they are past six months from the last dose,” she said.
However, those considered to be living a low-risk lifestyle for infection may want to wait for the new vaccine.
“If they are working from home, they have a small circle of social interactions, they can wait for the fall booster to get the new type of vaccine.” Sabet said.
Sabet also encouraged parents of children between the ages of five and 11 years old to make an appointment for a booster ahead of a new school year.
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