HALIFAX -- Although it hasn't technically launched yet, Nova Scotia's annual flu shot program is already proving very popular this year -- likely because of COVID-19.

Doctors, nurses and pharmacies say appointments are booking up fast.

Mark and Martha Poirier headed to a Halifax pharmacy on Wednesday for what has become an annual tradition for them in retirement.

But this year, flu shots have taken on a new urgency.

"I think at our age, we're susceptible to these kinds of things," Mark Poirier said. "And when we visit grandchildren, we don't want to a -- get it from them, or b -- give it to them."

Although not officially launching until next week, the annual vaccination program is important enough to warrant buying advertising space this year.

Shipments arrive throughout the season, and the province has upped its annual order by five per cent.

Pharmacies that haven't received their shipments yet will be getting them shortly.

"It's important that we have as many Nova Scotians as possible get the flu vaccine this fall," said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health.

The province's top doctor says that's the best way to minimize the possibility of COVID-19 spreading in tandem with the flu.

The vaccine is being distributed to doctors, primary care nurses and pharmacies this week.

In the meantime, he's asking people to be patient.

"You have from now until Christmas is my saying," said Dr. Strang. "You have about eight weeks to get vaccinated, so you don't have to rush and everybody get vaccinated at once. We have no influenza here."

As for the Poiriers, they found the process fast and easy, and know others in their circle will be making the trek, too.

"I think all my friends have registered and plan to get the shot, yes," said Martha Poirier.