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Peterborough pharmacies not receiving enough flu shots to support demand

Sullivan's Pharmacy in Peterborough isn't receiving enough flu vaccines to support demand.
Sullivan's Pharmacy in Peterborough isn't receiving enough flu vaccines to support demand. Mark Giunta/Global News

Not only are we dealing with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but it’s also flu season.

Although this year’s flu season isn’t predicted to be as bad as in previous years, many people are getting the flu shot or are on wait lists for the shot in Peterborough.

“We’re still struggling to get vaccine into our store,” said Jason Hinton, owner and pharmacist at Sullivan’s Pharmacy on Hunter Street. “In the last three weeks, I’ve got 70 doses delivered. That’s over and above the 325 in my initial shipment.

“It’s not nearly enough to cover the waiting list that we currently have.

Read more: Demand for flu shot up 500% at Ontario pharmacies compared to 2019

“Overall, we’re at 60 per cent of last years doses.”

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There are two flu vaccines available: quadrivalent, which has four components — two are Influenza A and two are Influenza B — and high dose, which has three components — two Influenza A and one Influenza B.

The high-dose vaccine is only available to those who are over the age of 65.

It contains a higher dose of the vaccine, although seniors can also request the quadrivalent shot instead.

Hinton tells Global News Peterborough the high dose is in high demand, but the supply is very low.

“We got 55 in our initial shipment and have got zero since that point,” he said. “The demand has definitely increased. There’s a lot of first-time people getting the flu shot this year. It doesn’t make sense why I’m not getting the same amount of vaccine that I got last year.

“I expected this year we’d do well over 1,000 vaccines. I’m at 400 and I’m not sure I’ll get to 500.”

Read more: Doug Ford says Ontario flu shot campaign successful even as pharmacies run out of doses

Across the city, it’s the same story at Mather and Bell Pharmacy on Park Street South.

“Last year, we did approximately 260-280 shots. We’ve done over 200 already this year. We have a call list of approximately 300 people,” said owner and pharmacist Mark Scanlon.

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“Many brought in extra at the beginning and have already blown through it. In February, the manufacturers of the vaccine were told to make this much and demand is two to three times as high as it normally is.”

Scanlon says some of the people who are coming in to get vaccinated are saying they were told by their doctors to go to the pharmacy to get vaccinated this year.

He says he’s not getting enough of the high-dose vaccine to keep up with the demand.

“Approximately 15 per cent of the doses we received were high dose and 80 per cent of our calls were people saying, ‘I would like the high dose, please,” Scanlon added.

“This is the first year that the high dose was available for pharmacies to administer. Previous years it was only available through the doctors’ offices. So we’re getting a lot of demand for high dose and essentially we had to restrict to those seniors who are particularly at risk.”

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Global News Peterborough requested an interview with Peterborough Public Health (PPH), which was declined.

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The Ministry of Health said it asked PPH to refer questions about flu vaccine supply to them.

“Earlier this fall, Ontario launched the largest flu immunization campaign in the province’s history,” ministry spokesperson David Jensen said in an email.

“The province’s campaign has resulted in more Ontarians getting the flu shot, and earlier, than ever before. As of Nov. 12, over 5.2 million doses of the flu vaccine have been distributed – more than 1 million doses compared to the same time last year.”

Jensen said that as of Nov. 11, the province had only seen eight influenza detections reported for this season so far, “a significant decrease compared to previous years.”

“Ontario, like other provinces and territories, is seeking additional doses of the flu vaccine as part of the national bulk procurement program,” Jensen stated. “We are also engaged in conversations with our private sector partners regarding additional opportunities to procure supply beyond the historic levels that have already been distributed to Ontarians.”

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