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‘Like lining up for concert tickets’: High-demand for Kelowna drop-in vaccine clinic

The lineup outside the drop-in COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Lakeside Medicine Centre Pharmacy on Sunday, May 2, 2021. Thomas Martin/Submitted

A 32-year-old Kelowna, B.C., man said waking up after the crack of dawn on Sunday to get a COVID-19 Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine felt like waiting in line for concert tickets.

Thomas Martin got wind of a drop-in vaccine clinic at the Lakeside Medicine Centre Pharmacy through a social media post.

The clinic was scheduled to open at 9 a.m., but aware of the high demand and low supply of the vaccine, he arrived approximately three hours early, at 6:00 a.m. There were already 20 people in line.

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“It felt very much like we were lining up for concert tickets. Everyone was in a good mood and friendly.”

“It grew extremely rapidly,” Martin said of the lineup.

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The drop-in COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Lakeside Medicine Centre Pharmacy on Sunday, May 2, 2021. Travis Lowe/Global News

“I was killing time by counting numbers in the lineup. At 7:30 a.m. it was 172, and by 8:30 a.m., it was 238 people.”

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B.C.’s pharmacy AstraZeneca program is running parallel to the age-based system. While people aged 50 and over will be invited to book their vaccine through the age-based roll out this week, the AstraZeneca vaccine is available to anyone 30-plus at eligible pharmacies with available supply.

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Martin said after a two-hour wait, he received his first dose of the vaccine.

Read more: B.C. reports 740 new COVID-19 cases, fewest since late March

“Hats off to the pharmacy. They were super-efficient. They had people in line up filling out the registration before you even got to get your dose and you stepped up, they talked you through the process, they gave you a shot, they made sure you weren’t bleeding, they explained what you could expect, and then they asked you to stick around for 15-20 minutes in case there were side effects,” Martin said.

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The pharmacy posted to Facebook it has 300 doses available to administer at the Sunday clinic.

“The whole reason for us to do this as a single clinic is so we can have the manpower to manage this many people and to ensure that we don’t waste any doses,” said pharmacy representative Chris Waller.

On Friday, Interior Health announced more pharmacies in B.C. Interior communities will receive an allotment of the vaccine. They include Castlegar, Cranbrook, Kamloops, Kelowna, Lake Country, Penticton, Vernon and West Kelowna.

The BC Pharmacy Association website lists pharmacies where COVID-19 immunizations are available.

People are asked to only schedule one appointment either using the provincial system or with a participating pharmacy directly.

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Martin questions why the vaccine rollout of the AstraZeneca product seems to have become a free-for-all.

“We were asked to pre-register on a website in age cohorts and this registration process took months, it felt like, to complete, and then they have just completely ignored this registration process and have started handing out doses to clinics who are then administering them, this was a pop-up clinic, so first-come-first-served, instead of being contacted,” he said.

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“If it was an organized process, I wouldn’t be outside at 6 a.m. waiting for a vaccine.”

Martin also noted that his wife, who works at a courthouse, is not eligible for a vaccine yet because she is 29-years-old, and her industry has not been prioritized.

“I work in forestry, in a small crew or by myself in the field, I’m not exactly a high-risk, even though I am technically essential, I don’t have public interaction. Whereas my wife’s workplace, they have huge numbers of public coming through in an enclosed space,” Martin said.

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“I think there was some good research and analysis coming through external experts that said that it would be more effective if we prioritized based on high exposure essential workers and I think that would have been an extremely good route for the province to take.”

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On Friday, the provincial government said 1,786,722 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in B.C., 90,642 of which are second doses.

Nearly 40 per cent of eligible people in B.C. have received their first dose.

-With files from Travis Lowe 

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