The Manitoba government and the province's pharmacists are close to a deal that will let you visit your local drugstore to get a flu shot or be vaccinated for an exotic vacation.
The Manitoba legislature passed a new Pharmaceuticals Act in December 2006, granting pharmacists the right to prescribe certain drugs, order and receive certain diagnostic tests and perform immunizations.
But the legislation has never been proclaimed, pending the drafting of necessary regulations. It's a process that's taken much longer than anybody imagined.
"We've been on this road for a while," said Ron Guse, registrar of the Manitoba Pharmaceutical Association, this week.
The MPhA was given the task of writing the initial draft of the law's regulations. But the process stalled when the association's members voted down the first version in 2008. A second attempt was passed in 2010. Since then, the province has been reworking them with the input of the association. And the effort continues.
A government spokeswoman said the province hopes the process will be done by the end of the year. Complicating things further is that the province's pharmacists — the MPhA is the profession's regulatory body — get to vote on the final draft.
"We are hopeful the regulations will be finalized by the end of the year, but again government is dependent upon the profession at this point," the government spokeswoman said in an email.
Already, though, some 135 Manitoba pharmacists have been trained to perform immunizations and vaccinations. And all new graduates of the University of Manitoba's faculty of pharmacy will also be qualified to give their future clients a needle, since it's become part of their training.
Thanh Nguyen, who operates a pharmacy on Lorimer Boulevard, is already advertising that he will perform vaccinations — once he gets the regulatory go-ahead.
Nguyen said his profession is changing. A new generation of pharmacists see themselves as more than mere pill-pushers and advisers on how to take medications.
"It's nice to do something a little bit more involved with patient care," he said.
Nguyen and other pharmacists see a role for themselves in carrying a heavier load in an increasingly burdened health-care system. "A lot of doctors are overworked at the moment," he said.
During the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, pharmacists could have helped reduce the long lineups across the city for a flu shot, if they had been trained and allowed to provide them.
At the same time, people in rural areas with fewer health-care alternatives might also benefit from having their local pharmacist able to administer a vaccine, said the MPA's Guse.
He said pharmacists in Alberta and British Columbia are already performing immunizations, while their colleagues in Ontario have just received the go-ahead.