Regina pharmacies book up in anticipation of Wednesday’s COVID-19 vaccine shipment

Click to play video: 'Pharmacies book up in anticipation of Wednesday’s COVID-19 vaccine shipment' Pharmacies book up in anticipation of Wednesday’s COVID-19 vaccine shipment
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As Saskatchewan is set to receive another COVID-19 vaccine shipment Wednesday, the majority of appointments in some Regina pharmacies are already booked up.

Chris Perentes, owner and manager at Lorne Drugs, said his pharmacy ran out of doses Monday after finishing its second week of administering vaccines.

He expects to get another 120 doses Wednesday afternoon, which he said will last until Sunday.

Read more: Vaccination eligibility expands to age 26 Wednesday; Saskatchewan reports 4 new deaths

“As the province lowers the eligibility age every few days our phones start ringing off the hook and there’s lots of people looking for vaccine,” Perentes told Global News.

“Unfortunately, we can only accommodate so many every week. Fortunately, there’s lots of pharmacies out there and other places they can also get their vaccine.”

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On average, Perentes said his pharmacy can administer 30 doses a day — about 120 a week.

While there has been a learning curve to managing the vaccine schedule at the same time as operating the rest of the pharmacy, Perentes said “it’s gone quite smoothly.”

One challenge, though, is cancellations.

Many people are calling different pharmacies to book several appointments at once in order to get the best time slot or location available. Others book an appointment and then end up going to a drive-thru or walk-in clinic.

Read more: Canada sees lowest daily COVID-19 cases since April 5 despite surges in some provinces

“It’s not too bad if people call us and tell us they have to cancel, but if they don’t we can go into the health system and check if they’ve had a vaccination somewhere else and we’re able to take them out and book somebody else on the spot,” Perentes said.

“It’s time-consuming and a little frustrating, but we manage.”

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Pharmacies wait for major supply boost as vaccines run out – Apr 26, 2021

It’s a similar story for Brian Gray at Lakeshore Pharmacy.

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The store owner said they started administering COVID vaccines the last weekend in April and ran out four days later.

“We had the Pfizer vaccine and the expiry on the vaccine is only about four-and-a-half days,” Gray said.

“Once you get them they have to be injected immediately.”

Gray’s pharmacy is also expected to receive 120 doses Wednesday afternoon, which he said will last four days.

“We’ve got about 150 people currently on our waiting list who couldn’t get a shot this week,” he said.

While demand greatly outweighs supply right now, Gray said he is excited for more doses to start flowing.

Read more: Ontario pausing use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine due to safety, supply concerns

“The faster that we get to a regular, predictable shipment the easier it will be for us to be able to plan and book people two or three weeks ahead of time,” Gray said.

According to Health Minister Paul Merriman, the Saskatchewan government is sending 30 per cent of vaccine doses to pharmacies across the province in an effort to keep up with demand.

“The pharmacies have a great record of pushing through a massive amount of vaccines in a short amount of time,” Merriman told reporters on Monday.

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While the province is expected to reopen drive-thru clinics in Regina and Saskatoon if supply allows, Merriman said people should book appointments through pharmacies or the SHA.

“It’s very encouraging when we hit 13,000-plus (vaccine doses a day) without having the drive-thru open. It just shows that we can get that done through other mechanisms outside of the drive-thru,” said Merriman, referencing Sunday’s single-day record for most vaccines administered.

Merriman said an eventual shift away from drive-thru vaccination clinics will help free up health-care workers who are needed to deal with other SHA system backlogs.

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However, Perentes said it needs to be a gradual shift as pharmacies get used to an added workload.

“At the moment we still need that capacity at the drive-thrus and walk-ins until a greater majority of people get vaccinated,” Perentes said.

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“If the shift falls just to pharmacies, it could start to wear on us.”

In Tuesday’s provincial COVID update, Premier Scott Moe said Saskatoon’s drive-thru vaccine clinic is expected to open Wednesday. The one in Regina is set to open Thursday.

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