Pharmacies impacted by COVID-19 vaccine supply shortage
BARRIE, ONT. -- Supply shortages are impacting pharmacies participating in the province's vaccination program. CTV's Craig Momney talked with Ontario Pharmacist Association CEO Justin Bates about what's happening.
Craig Momney - What is the supply situation for pharmacies right now?
Justin Bates - Well, the good news here is that we're almost depleted of all the AstraZeneca vaccines that were distributed to community pharmacies over the last several weeks, and that's good news because it means people are getting shots in arms.
Unfortunately, there is going to be a supply interruption of AstraZeneca due to lack of certainty and predictability. We are hopeful that the federal government will procure enough vaccines for the second doses coming up in the next week to eight weeks that are scheduled.
Craig Momney - We are hearing from people who have been on a waiting list for a month. What do you say to them?
Justin Bates - Well, supply continues to be a challenge; there's no question about that. That's one of the reasons that we've been advocating for all vaccines to be distributed through the pharmacy channel, and I'm pleased to say that we've launched a Pfizer pilot last week, and we're adding stores as of Friday; both in Toronto and Peel to that program. And we're launching a pilot for Moderna in five public health units with over 60 pharmacies on Friday as well.
Our hope would be to rapidly expand that across the province with a concentration in hot spots as well.
Craig Momney - What questions are pharmacists getting about AstraZeneca and the different vaccine options?
Justin Bates - We'll we're disappointed with the recent messaging coming out of NACI. I think the uncertainty that that's creating is causing concerns and confusion about the safety and efficacy of AstraZeneca.
We have seen an uptick in people who got the first dose asking pharmacists and other healthcare professionals whether that was the right choice and also wondering should they get their second dose, and our messaging has been the same from day one, which is the benefits far outweigh the risks.
When you look at the data, and we believe the data should do the talking here, you know it's a very low probability. No doubt that we should be monitoring that and being transparent about those risks, but I have no hesitation to say that AstraZeneca is safe and effective.
Craig Momney - Now you have mentioned the Pfizer pilot project, how many pharmacies could potentially get and be able to handle the Pfizer vaccine?
Justin Bates - Well, they all can manage and handle it. It is more complex in terms of its distribution and storage requirements, but there are several provinces that started with Pfizer in pharmacies, and the U.S., of course, launched with Pfizer in pharmacies, so we know it can be done, and it is being done, and I'm very confident that all pharmacies can manage and handle that.