Alberta vaccine supply issues causing pharmacies to cancel hundreds of appointments

COCHRANE, ALTA. — Ian Kruger’s pharmacy in Cochrane has the space and the staff to administer and store COVID-19 vaccines, but there’s no supply and he doesn’t know when his next shipment will show up.

“In one word: frustrating,” is how Kruger describes the last several weeks since his pharmacy received its first shipment of vaccine.

“We went from excited, extremely excited to very frustrated. Just with not having the vaccine for people we want to help.”

He says shipments have been sporadic and the number of doses he receives change without notice, causing huge issues for booking.

“Unfortunately we had to cancel 400 appointments, which I’m sure people can understand is a burden on our workforce. And disappointing, right, as a human being just to not have access to vaccines,” Kruger said.

His staff is trying to adapt to the changes on the fly and his phone is ringing off the hook with people asking when they can get the shot.

Some of the people CTV News spoke to in Cochrane say, with low supply locally, they were able to be vaccinated at Calgary’s Telus Convention Centre. But not everyone is able to drive to Calgary and vaccine shortages are an even bigger issue at rural pharmacies that are nowhere near the cities where mass vaccination sites have been set up.

“There is very limited supply in pharmacies at this time in rural Alberta,” said Margaret Wing, the CEO of the Alberta Pharmacists Association. “It’s important for Albertans to know that.”

She says pharmacies that are hours away from Calgary and Edmonton can’t get shipments of the Pfizer vaccine and some can’t provide the proper storage.

SUPPLY PROBLEMS

The AstraZeneca shot is now in higher demand since the age eligibility was expanded and Canada is running into supply problems due to the COVID-19 situation in India, where the vaccine is made.

Alberta also had its most recent shipment of the Moderna vaccine cut in half. The next shipment of that brand is expected to be sometime between April 29 and May 3, though the government says that’s no guarantee, either.

“I know it’s challenging sometimes, but I would ask that we continue to urge patience and we are working as quickly as we can with our existing supply and those constraints,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw Thursday.

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