SAULT STE. MARIE -- As the second wave of COVID-19 hits the country, so, too, is the demand for flu shots.

As more Canadians grapple with the possibility of facing two illnesses this fall, a pharmacist in Sault Ste. Marie said Thursday the number of those wanting flu shots this year are off the charts.

"I think within the first day of receiving our shipment, we had well over 100 calls from people booking appointments," said Clayton Maltby, owner of the Superior Health Centre Medicine Shoppe. "We're at still relatively new pharmacy, as well, and from others around town who are bigger, I'm hearing they're just as slammed."

The Public Health Agency of Canada said more than 13 million doses were ordered this year, an increase from 11.2 million in 2019.

But Maltby said shipments are delivered periodically, making things more challenging when trying to make supplies last.

Gauntlet of phone calls

"Once that first shipment runs out, that's it," he said. "We can't get our second batch until, I think, Oct. 26. Once that happens, then we will experience another gauntlet of phone calls I'm sure."

The Superior Family Health Team said it's also dealing with a high demand in flu shots this season.

It's why it has partnered with Maltby to host a drive thru event Oct. 17, which it said will help keep people safe and administer the vaccine more rapidly.

"We figure by letting people stay in their cars, they will be just with people in their bubble," said Dr. Alan McLean.

McLean said the event will take place from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. in the parking lot.

However, passengers will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms before being allowed through.

"In years prior, we would often just have people in the waiting room waiting for their appointments to happen," McLean said. "With COVID, we could no longer do that. We had to find a new and different approach to try and get lots of people immunized."

Despite difficulties, Maltby said there's no shortage of the influenza vaccine for this year.

Meanwhile, eligible patients attending the event on Saturday are asked to dress appropriately to receive the shot right in their vehicles.