Monday April 5, 2021 | WEST SHORE, BC [Updated at 4:09 pm on April 6, 2021]
by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc., Editor | Island Social Trends
Some pharmacies in the west shore and Sooke were surveyed by Island Social Trends today to find out how they will be handling the administration of COVID vaccines at their locations.
Last week the BC Pharmacy Association stepped up to be part of the BC Immunization Plan rollout, but as of today five pharmacies in Langford, Colwood and Sooke are not yet supplied with COVID-19 vaccine doses. [On April 6 Health Minister Adrian Dix said that more supply is expected toward the end of this week “at participating pharmacies” in areas beyond the lower mainland, and that health authorities and pharmacies will let people know when and where.]
The direction seems to be that a few pilot locations have been chosen for administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine to people ages 55 to 65, keeping the rollout pretty tight to some locations that have not yet been announced.
On April 3, BC Health & the Provincial Health Officer stated in an Easter weekend COVID update release that “in partnership with the BC Pharmacy Association we plan to expand the AstraZeneca vaccine program outside of the Lower Mainland by the end of next week to more communities throughout the province, including Dawson Creek, Fort St. John, Kamloops, Kelowna, Nanaimo, Parksville, Prince George, Quesnel, Terrace, Vernon and Victoria.” The BC Pharmacy Association was pleased about the announcement, and is also running a training course (now full) on how to administer the vaccine.
The BC Immunization Program is rolling out based on age in descending order from elders down through the rest of the population. As of April 5 people who are age 72 and older can book a COVID vaccination appointment. Tomorrow that drops to age 71. Tomorrow the BC government’s online COVID vaccination booking system will launch.
Local pharmacies in the west shore & Sooke:
- Shoppers Drug Mart in Langford (at the West Shore Town Centre on Jacklin Road) has a voice message on their phone line, directing callers to a vaccination information link, where people can sign up to be notified as to when the eligibility criteria expand to their age. “Individuals 55 to 65 years of age are currently eligible based on the criteria set by the provincial government, subject to availability,” it is stated on the Shoppers Drug Mart COVID information page.
- Shoppers Drug Mart in Sooke (in the Evergreen Shopping Centre on Sooke Road) has been receiving inquiries from customers in the local area, but the pharmacy advises that no doses of the AstraZeneca for ages 55 to 65 are available at this time at their location.
- London Drugs Colwood (in the Colwood Corners mall on Island Highway/Sooke Road) says their store has not been included in the Victoria-region rollout so far. They have three pharmacists who are qualified to administer vaccines.
- Millstream Pharmasave (at the Millstream Shopping Centre in Langford) has no AstraZeneca yet. “They openly selected a few pharmacies,” said one of their pharmacists today. They’ve had a lot of calls from the public, inquiring about COVID vaccine availability, and will guide callers to contact Island Health if they fit within the current age eligibility.
- Forbes Pharmacy in Sooke (on Logan Lane behind Village Foods) said they signed up to be part of the pilot project, but no word so far about getting any doses. They are receiving a lot of calls from local customers about vaccine availability.
All of these five pharmacies have pharmacists on staff who can regularly administer other vaccines — for flu, shingles or travel — and have continued to do that during the COVID pandemic as required.
Supply and distribution:
BC is dependent on federal procurement for the supply of COVID vaccines from other countries. something that Premier John Horgan mentions frequently in his sessions with media. There is no domestic production of vaccines within Canada, due to a decades-long dissolution of Canadian industry (and government) investment in the capacity to produce vaccines here in Canada.
As of April 1, BC had received 989,250 doses of all three types of COVID vaccines (Pfizer, Modern and AstraZeneca) of which 787,649 had been administered. During the Easter long weekend, on April 3, BC Health updated their tally of administered vaccine doses to 856,801 (which is about 19.9% of the BC adult population).
Around March 30, Island Health shared half its AstraZeneca supply (500 of 1,000 doses) with the Lower Mainland health authorities, to help with peak infection rates in that densely populated area.
The AstraZeneca product does have a tighter expiry date than the mRNA types of vaccines.
Rough ride for AstraZeneca:
A two-dose viral vector type of vaccine against COVID-19, the AstraZeneca product has endured some public relations hurdles in the rollout of their product. Now based on the incidence of blood clots (considered rare, and only in young adult women), the vaccine is presently limited in Canada for use only in adults age 55 to 65 years of age upon the recommendation of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI).
The mRNA vaccine products (Pfizer and Moderna) have met with more public favour, even though for public health it requires more strategic attention given the ultra-low frozen temperatures at which the products must be shipped and stored.