Respiratory illnesses have always been a significant public health concern, but in recent times, their importance has been magnified by the global COVID-19 pandemic. This fall and winter season, the imminent and simultaneous threat of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza season and COVID-19 raise cause for concern. Pharmacy professionals’ roles are constantly evolving, and they have emerged as critical healthcare providers in the fight against respiratory illnesses. Their expertise in medication management, patient education, and vaccination plays a crucial role in preventing and managing these diseases.

This signature learning series (SLS) was developed to assist pharmacy professionals with combating respiratory illnesses and discuss the importance of vaccinations. This SLS has two parts: in-person events that occurred across Ontario and virtual education. 

In-Person Events

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To help pharmacy professionals meet the healthcare and vaccination needs in their communities, OPA hosted Fall Respiratory Illness Season Preparedness events across Ontario.

Led by OPA’s CEO, Justin Bates, and Vice-President of Strategic Initiatives and Member Relations, Jen Belcher, the events fostered important discussions regarding pharmacy issues, including how to prepare for a complex vaccination season, publicly funded programs targeting respiratory illness, and opportunities and challenges facing pharmacy professionals in the field of respiratory health. Furthermore, the events provided opportunities to update attendees about OPA’s advocacy initiatives and priorities like scope expansion, reconciliation, third-party payors and more. Attendees had the chance to ask questions, brainstorm and develop new connections through a networking session. 

Virtual Education

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In the dynamic world of healthcare staying prepared for respiratory illnesses, especially during the fall and winter seasons is crucial. The Fall Respiratory Illness Preparedness webinar was an opportunity to connect virtually with pharmacy professionals and help expand their knowledge regarding respiratory illnesses. The webinar provided participants with up-to-date and evidence-based information. It discussed research, testing, treatment options and current and emerging vaccines so that pharmacy professionals can make informed decisions and provide the best possible patient care. During the webinar, a special guest popped in. Sylvia Jones, Ontario’s Deputy Premier and Minister of Health briefly joined Jen Belcher to say hello to attendees, thank pharmacy professionals for their hard work and dedication and discuss how the government is working to build a stronger healthcare system. 

One of the most important aspects of combatting respiratory illnesses is vaccination. Vaccines are a powerful tool for preventing and helping to stop the spread of illnesses like influenza, RSV and COVID-19.

Pharmacy professionals have played a pivotal role in expanding access to vaccines by providing immunization services. Pharmacy professionals are trained to administer vaccines safely and effectively, and their accessibility in communities makes getting vaccinated more convenient for many people. 

The pharmacy is the top choice for Canadians seeking flu shots, with 60% of them selecting it as their preferred location.¹ 

Pharmacy professionals are a key component in the fight against respiratory illnesses. Their expertise in patient education, medication management, and vaccination services is pivotal in preventing and managing these diseases.  

Awareness of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is limited among Canadians as 33% have not heard of the virus.¹

As we continue to grapple with respiratory illnesses like influenza, RSV and COVID-19, pharmacy professionals’ role in addressing vaccine hesitancy, educating patients, and administering vaccines is more critical than ever. By educating pharmacy professionals and helping them prepare for this respiratory season, we can take significant strides in combating respiratory illnesses and ensuring a healthier future for all. 

Webinar Recording 

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In-person events were held in Toronto and Ottawa and were well-attended by pharmacy and healthcare professionals. 

This signature learning series (SLS) was developed by OPA and supported through an education grant from Pfizer.  


1 Canadian Pharmacists Association. (2023). CPhA Cold and Flu Season Survey. Retrieved from