Several Kingston pharmacies say they are either out of the flu shot, or almost out, and are unsure when they will be getting more.
Over the last two days, Global News canvassed local pharmacies to see how many flu shots they had left. Several reported being out since last week, while others said they had only 20 to 40 doses left. All reported not knowing when the next shipment would be coming in.
Last week, some local pharmacies received a memo from McKesson Canada, a supplier for flu vaccines for Ontario pharmacies, saying that “patient demand has outpaced the Ontario government’s allocation of the flu vaccine to McKesson.”
The memo was faxed to a local pharmacist on Oct. 30, who then provided the document to Global News. It said that both the federal and provincial government “are aware of the situation and are working diligently to expedite existing orders of the vaccine in addition to securing additional supply to meet demand.”
Several local pharmacists told Global News that flu shot deliveries have been, so far, sporadic, with one saying they hadn’t received even close to the number allocated to them last year.
Ronish Amin pharmacist, at PharmacyGo in Kingston said he’s had to put flu shot appointments on hold for the time being.
“It’s unfortunate that we’re sort of advocating to get people protected, but on the flip side we’re actually not able to protect them right away,” Amin said.
“Now I’m not able to make any more appointments for anybody until I can at least secure a supply somehow,” Amin said Monday.
Brian Adams, a pharmacist for Quarry Medical Pharmacy, said they ran out of their last shipment, about 70 doses, last week, and isn’t optimistic about seeing more come through any time soon.
Med+ Pharmacy told Global News they have about 30 shots left in stock, which, if they were offering walk-ins, would be gone in a day. Although flu shot supply is low, Med+ Pharmacy did start offering asymptomatic testing for COVID-19 on Monday, making it the third pharmacy in Kingston to do so.
Ian Arthur tweeted about what he called an “alarming number” of constituents who reported having trouble accessing the flu shot, especially the high dose shot for seniors.
But the problem is not just a local one, with flu shot shortages being reported across Ontario.
Rexall, the pharmacy chain, announced Monday it has temporarily paused its flu shot program across Ontario because of a lack of supply.
On Monday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the current situation is just a sign that people are taking public health advice, and laid the blame on Rexall for the cancelled appointments.
“Let me flip this around, isn’t this great news that we’ve seen an increase of flu shots of 500 per cent?” People are listening,” said Ford after being asked why there was a shortage.
“As for my friends at Rexall, you knew the allocations that you had, so don’t overbook people.”
KFL&A Public Health said doses of the flu shot are delivered by the province in stages, and that traditionally, it’s not uncommon for the general public to only start getting immunized at this time of year.
“Receiving the influenza vaccine in November is not uncommon,’ said Amanda Posadowski, manager of vaccine and preventable disease at KFL&A Public Health, in an email sent last week, after the MPP voiced his concerns.
“During flu seasons prior to the pandemic, the vaccine was available only to those at high-risk in mid-October. In late October/early November the vaccine then became available to the public.”
The health unit says it has reserved over 72,000 influenza vaccine doses to distribute to local health care providers, which they say is a 25 per cent increase from what was administered by public health last year.
According to the health unit, local pharmacies receive flu vaccines directly from the Ministry of Health. KFL&A Public Health said information about the number of flu vaccines slated for local pharmacies region would have to come from the ministry.
The ministry has not responded to multiple requests for that number.
In April, Dr. Kieran Moore, medical officer of health for the region, told Global News that usually the region has about 40 per cent immunization for the flu, but this year, due to the pandemic, he was hoping to get somewhere between 120,000 to 140,000 doses, or to vaccinate up to 70 per cent of the KFL&A population, which stands at approximately 212,000.
On Friday, Moore said it was still his goal to get as many people in the KFL&A region immunized as possible, and that he expected local pharmacies to get about 30,000 doses of the flu shot in addition to the 72,000 doses ordered by public health.
“That’s at least half of our population will be able to get immunized with the influenza vaccine, which is much higher than what is traditional, and in anticipating increased demand, we’re actually ordering more, so this year we may, if all goes well, have one of the highest immunization rates in Ontario,” Moore said Friday.
Moore said that as of Friday, 49,000 doses of the vaccine had already been shipped out to primary care providers. He promised to be “very aggressive” to bring more flu vaccines to the region if demand continues.
The health unit said the general public in the KFL&A region should continue to seek flu shots from their primary care physician and pharmacies.
Public health has also set up flu shot clinics within the community that are open to the general public to help with demand.
Those clinics, which are by appointment only, will run on the following days:
- Nov. 7 – Rideau Heights Community Centre, Kingston
- Nov. 13 – Memorial Centre, Kingston
- Nov. 14 – Napanee Community Centre
- Nov. 19 – INVISTA Centre, Kingston
- Dec. 2 – Lions Hall, Northbrook
Community clinics run by outside agencies will be held on the following dates:
- Nov. 5 – Verona Lion’s Club drive-thru run by Verona Medical Clinic
- Nov. 3, 10, 17 – Harrowsmith Free Methodist Church – drive-thru – run by Sydenham Medical
- Nov 2. – Tamworth Medical Centre – drive-thru – Tamworth Medical Centre
— With files from The Canadian Press and Global News’ Mike Postovit and Jennifer Basa