COVID-19: Shortage of vaccines for 40-to-60-year-olds in B.C. as AstraZeneca shots snapped up

Until more AZ arrives, British Columbians must wait for the age-based vaccine rollout by appointment through the provincial site

Article content

A rush on the AstraZeneca vaccine after B.C. opened up supply to those 40-and-older made it difficult for people like Catherine Hopkins from even getting on a waiting list for her COVID-19 jab.

Hopkins, 54, tried to book at a number of pharmacies, the day her cohort was allowed to step up for AstraZeneca.

“Most were online booking only and were fully booked,” she said.

Even though she had called a pharmacy close to her work in the Kensington area with no luck, she decided to go in-person to increase her odds and chose a smaller independent drugstore that might not be as busy as the larger chains, a strategy she had read about online.

Hopkins was told they had had some spots in the morning but were all booked, and they offered her the waiting list.

“I saw him write my name on a pad of paper and I didn’t think it would work,” she said. “But I told him I worked in the area” and could get there quickly if there was a cancellation. She got a call at 3 p.m. and got her jab at 5:10 p.m. right after work last Tuesday.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

“I feel lucky,” she said. “I have other friends who are still waiting for theirs.”

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said all 314,000 doses of AstraZeneca, which was made available first to those between 55 and 64 years old and then to those 40 to 64, were expected to be gone, and no new doses are expected this week.

Pharmacies are currently administering the AstraZeneca vaccine to those age 40 and older, although the age eligibility is expected to drop when more doses arrive in B.C.

In some areas hard-hit by COVID-19, Fraser Health has lowered the eligibility age to 30-and-over. Two pop-up clinics in Surrey and Coquitlam on Tuesday drew long lines of people unfazed by the wait.

Shots at the pop-up clinics were only available to people with eligible postal codes who live in high-transmission neighbourhoods in the Fraser Valley.

Fraser Health said it was pleased with the turnout, and hope to set up more drop-in clinics if the supply is available.

“We are hoping to provide more notification regarding our drop-in clinics going forward but we don’t want to miss any opportunities to expand a clinic when we can,” said the health authority in a statement. “We will implement further drop-in opportunities where and when we can.”

The province’s limited supply of AstraZeneca is being used to target “hot spot” communities, said B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix in a joint statement.

“We know demand for the AstraZeneca vaccine is high in many areas. Unfortunately, available supply through pharmacies in some regions will continue to be limited until additional supplies come in.”

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

The supply of Moderna has been delayed by news that the number of doses Canada was to receive by the end of April was cut about in half to 650,000 from the expected 1.2 million. But B.C. was expecting a shipment of almost 275,000 Pfizer doses, and it would be receiving some of the 300,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson announced for Canada on Monday.

“We should expect to receive them (the Johnson & Johnson vaccines) next week,” said Henry.

The U.S. said it would be distributing to other countries 60 million doses of AstraZeneca, and B.C. Premier John Horgan on Tuesday said he would be discussing a “range of border-type issues” with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee this week on one of their regular calls to try to secure some of those shots.

“If we had more supply, we’d have more people vaccinated,” he said.

Every British Columbian that wanted a vaccine should receive one over the next two months, Henry said. If B.C. receives more vaccines it “might be ahead of that time line,” said Henry.

The B.C. Pharmacy Association on its website Friday asked people seeking their jab not to call pharmacies because “no appointments are available at this time” at the 640 pharmacies that Dix said were given AstraZeneca. It said the demand “has exceeded the current supply available in B.C. pharmacies” and said all AstraZeneca doses were expected to be given out this week.

“Pharmacy supply in B.C. is allocated by the provincial government,” said pharmacies spokesman Michael Mui in an email. “Once we receive additional supply we will be happy to share more information.”

Over 1.6 million British Columbians, or about 35 per cent of the population, have received their first doses and more than 89,000 two doses, said Dix.

All British Columbians aged 18-and-older can now register online at getvaccinated.gov.bc.ca, and those in their late 50s-and-older are getting contacted to make appointments for their Pfizer or Moderna shots.

British Columbians who received a first dose of AstraZeneca at a pharmacy will have to register online for their second dose, beginning May 1.

slazaruk@postmedia.com

— with files from Cheryl Chan

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

This website uses cookies and asks your personal data to enhance your browsing experience.