Province redirects vaccines from pharmacies to AHS operated sites

CALGARY — Some pharmacies in the province are frustrated by the latest decision from Alberta Health to redirect some of its vaccine supply to Alberta Health Services’ vaccination sites.

Alberta Health has confirmed it has shifted about 40 per cent of Pfizer doses to help vaccinate Albertans as quickly as possible.

In a statement to CTV News, Tom McMillan with Alberta Health says, “This is a temporary move and we will increase vaccine supply to pharmacies as more doses arrive”

Meagan Carr, a pharmacy assistant in Calgary, who is in charge of the COVID vaccination clinic at the pharmacy she works for, says they received a letter from Alberta Blue Cross indicating the same move will be done with the Moderna vaccine.

The letter indicates that the 51,000 doses of Moderna vaccines, which Alberta pharmacies were supposed to get, will now be decreased to 31,000 with the remaining going to AHS operated sites.

The letter said, “Alberta Health has determined that according to the interim COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment Booking Portal, there were not enough bookings made in order to administer the 51,000 doses within seven days following the receipt of the vaccine within the province.”

Mathieu Giroux, a pharmacy with Cambrian Pharmacy, says there is a big disconnect in communication between the province and the pharmacies because less appointments booked does not mean the demand for a vaccine isn’t high.

Giroux says pharmacies don’t know when they will get a shipment of doses so instead of pre-booking appointments and then risking having to cancel them later, they wait until the doses come and then book patients in.

“I think where there is a shock is they were saying, ‘oh there was no demand at the pharmacy because there was no booked appointments’, but we didn’t book appointments until we know for a fact we are getting the vaccines,” said Giroux.

Furthermore, Giroux says the initial recommendation from the province was that pharmacies not pre-book appointments before they received their vaccine shipment.

Carr says the wait list at her pharmacy is around 1,500 right now and they are out of  the vaccines and she doesn’t know when they’ll get another delivery, which is why they haven’t booked any new appointments yet.

“Eventually every pharmacy is going to be in the same boat and I’m afraid they’ll just keep diverting more vaccine to theses AHS clinics instead of giving it to the pharmacies who truly want it and truly need it,” she said.

Carr says most patients like to go to their community pharmacy because of the convenience. She is worried how people who can’t commute to the Telus Convention Centre, especially people in rural areas, are going to get their shot.

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