HALIFAX -- With COVID-19 already a threat, health officials are recommending everyone get a flu shot to prevent what could become a twindemic: COVID and flu at once.

Most Maritimers say they want one and the vaccine is beginning to arrive, but doctors and pharmacists say patients may have to be patient.

On Prince Edward Island, patients are already rolling up their sleeves. In Nova Scotia, flu-shot bookings have begun, and in New Brunswick, flu vaccines have either arrived, or are about to.

"I understand it's trickled into most doctors and nurses offices at the end of last week," said Fredericton pharmacist Paul Bowman. "And we're hopeful that pharmacies will start to receive their shipments later on this week."

A recent study by the drugstore Pharmasave found that in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, 86 per cent of respondents plan to get the shot this year -- up from the 78 per cent who got it last year.

"Flu's not going to stop you getting COVID-19," Bowman said. "They're two separate viruses. But getting your flu shot is your best line of defence to stop getting the flu and staying as healthy as possible."

Dartmouth pharmacist Diane Harpell expects to give patients the shot after Thanksgiving, but is urging patience, noting not all shipments arrive at once.

"I think the key thing that people need to know is everybody can't get it the first day," Harpell said.

Doctors and pharmacists will have to clean between appointments and screen each patient for COVID symptoms beforehand.

That will take time and choreography.

That's one reason why Dr. Natasha Deshwal is holding her clinics after hours.

"A lot of after-hour clinics, weekend clinics, more clinics would be the other part of greater need that we're hearing," said Dr. Deshwal. "Flu clinics are filling up fast."

At most Shoppers Drug Mart locations, no appointment is needed. Patients are being asked to fill out a digital screening form before going inside.

Lawtons and Sobeys are strongly encouraging people to book in advance.

Some pharmacists, like Harpell, will also be heading into the community.

"Some of the homes that have patients that find it a little bit tough to come into the pharmacy, we'll plan to go with them and of course work with COVID precautions," said Harpell. "We've also heard from some local businesses hoping for us to do the same."

Both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have ordered more flu vaccines this year than they ever have.

And for the first time in New Brunswick, the flu vaccine will be free to everyone. The province says its doses will be sent first to those at highest risk -- like long-term care facilities and hospitals.