Vaccine-seekers swarm Manitoba pharmacy phone lines in search of AstraZeneca shot

Click to play video: 'Manitobans 40 and over can now access AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine'
Manitobans 40 and over can now access AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine
WATCH: Manitoba pharmacists had a busy day taking vaccination appointments Monday after the province changed eligibility rules to allow anyone 40 and over to get the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. – Apr 19, 2021

Pharmacists and doctors in Manitoba had an unexpected surprise Monday after the province dropped eligibility for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to 40-years-old.

Drug store workers had no heads-up about the change and found out from an overwhelming number of people calling or going online to book appointments.

The phones were ringing off the hook, but some pharmacists were glad to see it.

“All of a sudden it went from zero to 60,” said Tim Smith, board director of Pharmacists Manitoba.

It was so busy at one point, staff members couldn’t make outbound calls, said Smith.

“Given the overwhelming response we’ve seen today we’ll reach top capacity very soon.”

The province has received 84,000 AstraZeneca doses from the federal government so far, with 55,000 doses left as of Monday.

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Khrista Vogt hopped online when she heard the news and booked her appointment in Steinbach for hours later.

“It’s just a feeling of relief and hope,” Vogt said.

Social media blew up with people celebrating getting their vaccine, while other users cheered from the sidelines.

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However, a national Rogers Communications Inc. outage left some customers without phone or texting services, meaning some may have been unable to contact their pharmacies.

Premier Brian Pallister said Monday the province continues to urge people to get the AstraZeneca, despite hesitancy around blood clots.

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“Our best bet as individuals and as a population is to get vaccinated as soon as we can with whatever vaccines in front of us,” Pallister said.

There have been three cases of blood clots in Canada out of more than 700,000 doses of AstraZeneca administered so far.

The province has doled out roughly 350,977 first and second doses to Mantiobans as of Tuesday, according to the province’s website.

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