AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein

AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein

Lower Mainland pharmacists face ‘overwhelming’ demand for AstraZeneca shots

COVID vaccines available for people between the ages of 55 and 65

Despite a series of stumbling blocks in the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout at community pharmacies, the president of the BC Pharmacy Association says she’s excited to see so much demand for the shots.

Annette Robinson said the rollout was “overwhelming.” The announcement about people aged 55 to 65 being eligible for the vaccine at Lower Mainland pharmacies came only Tuesday afternoon, not leaving much time for preparation.

“A lot of pent-up demand. People are very interested in getting the vaccination,” Robinson said, noting that the recent news about AstraZeneca did not seem to temper interest at all. On Monday, B.C. officials announced that they were pausing the frontline worker program, which had run parallel to the age-based vaccine rollout, because of concerns over vaccine-induced pro-thrombotic immune thrombocytopenia (VIPIT) in people under the age of 55. Officials said there had been less than 30 cases identified around the world, primarily in Europe, and none in Canada.

“Pharmacists are the drug experts,” Robinson said. “We’re very able to answer those questions and remove that hesitancy.”

While hesitancy did not appear to be an issue with the AstraZeneca vaccine this week, Robinson said their was only one consideration in which vaccine people should sign up for: “The best vaccine is the one that you’re offered first.”

However, the AstraZeneca rollout was not without issues. London Drugs, which had three locations participating in the program, was inundated with calls and booked up all its doses Tuesday.

In a series of tweets, the company outlined its concerns.

“As soon as the news was public, all of our Lower Mainland British Columbia stores became inundated with customers wanting to book appointments. Our pharmacies that were selected immediately began taking down eligible patient information aged 55 to 65 for appointments,” the company said in a a social media post. London Drugs asked people to stop calling its pharmacies and that when more doses were available, they would be added to its online booking tool.

“These pharmacies learned yesterday that clearly there’s as a pent-up demand and we’re just happy to help,” Robinson explained.

Shoppers Drug Mart was also inundated, and did not have an online booking system, while Rexall provided only a waitlist online.

On Thursday afternoon, Health Minister Adrian Dix said that pharmacies in the Lower Mainland were provided with 13,500 doses, just under 20 per cent of the doses B.C. has received of the AstraZeneca vaccine overall. Dix said that pharmacies received does based on their flu shot rollout last the fall.

“We’re expecting, from the federal government… 43,000 more on Friday,” Dix added, noting that does not include the 1.5 million expected from the U.S.

Robinson said this had been a busier than usual six months overall for pharmacies, which first dealt with limited supply during the flu shot rollout this fall.

“We administered over a million flu shots and that’s historic,” she said. “We can use a lot of the information, the tools and the resources that we had garnered about vaccinating patients in the middle of a pandemic with the flu shots… and use that for the COVID vaccinations.

More vaccines are expected to arrive at pharmacies, and Robinson said pharmacies will communicate out when they have more doses. Until then, she urged people to have patience.

Black Press Media has reached out to the province for more details on amount of vaccine available to pharmacies. In total, B.C. officials said the program is meant to get 300,000 doses in arms around the province.

For a list of participating pharmacies, visit: www.bcpharmacy.ca/resource-centre/covid-19/vaccination-locations.

READ MORE: B.C.’s frontline worker vaccine program in flux as AstraZeneca use paused for under-55s

READ MORE: AstraZeneca vaccine to be offered to Lower Mainland residents ages 55-65 starting March 31

Coronavirusvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tala MacDonald, a 17-year-old student at Mount Sentinel Secondary who is also a volunteer firefighter, has won the $100,000 Loran Scholarship. Photo: Submitted
West Kootenay student wins $100K scholarship

Tala MacDonald is one of 30 Canadians to receive the Loran Scholarship

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

Kristian Camero and Jessica Wood, seen here, co-own The Black Cauldron with Stephen Barton. The new Nelson restaurant opened earlier this month while indoor dining is restricted by the province. Photo: Tyler Harper
A restaurant opens in Nelson, and no one is allowed inside

The Black Cauldron opened while indoor dining is restricted in B.C.

These two city-owned houses on Railway Avenue in the Railtown district will be sold. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
City of Nelson will sell two derelict houses in Railtown

Purchasers will be responsible for demolition and slope stability issues

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Black Press file photo).
Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Most Read