Health officials are urging Manitobans to get a booster shot for COVID-19 ahead of the holidays, but that’s proving to be easier said than done.
There was a steady stream of people lined up at Shoppers Drug Mart on Osborne Street in Winnipeg Thursday hoping to take advantage of walk-in shots at the clinic.
“A lot of places that were taking appointments, appointments are like two or three weeks from now,” one man in line told Global News, adding he had been there for about twenty minutes.
Another woman said she decided to return later in the day, after walking by earlier and seeing the line wrapped around the building.
Although waiting outside during December in Manitoba isn’t most people’s idea of a good time, many are finding it’s the most reliable way of getting a shot.
Several people said they had tried phoning other clinics and pharmacies before deciding to take their chances as a walk-in.
Using the province’s online vaccine-finder tool, Global News found 29 out of 38 medical clinics and 24 out of 29 pharmacies in the city’s core were out of stock Wednesday.
Additionally, only two out of nine pharmacies contacted said they had appointments before the holidays. One of those was in Winkler.
Three said the earliest appointments were in January, and the rest said they were unsure when they could fit someone in.
Dr. Joss Reimer, head of Manitoba’s vaccine task force, says they’re looking to increase staffing at the super sites to help meet demand.
“Most of the sites around the province have a lot of appointments available and in Winnipeg, we’re working to expand the availability as well,” Dr. Reimer said.
“We have the luxury of a lot more clinics and pharmacies in Winnipeg compared to the rest of the province, so we’re looking to make sure that it’s available in every neighbourhood for every individual in a convenient way.”
Karen Brizuela, who manages Northway Pharmacy Broadway, at the corner of Broadway and Young Street in Winnipeg, says having enough space to accommodate public health orders, along with staff to put needles into arms, are bigger issues than the supply right now.
“So far we haven’t had to turn away a lot of people. The moment we get a huge demand, a lot of questions, we just try to adapt and make do with what we have,” Brizuela said Thursday.
“It takes me like two days a week just to plan it out. The full two days just to book people in (and) coordinate, because as you can see … you don’t have the same amount of space.”
Brizuela says, unlike many doctors offices or pharmacies, they have the benefit of a community centre next door where they are able to host pop-up clinics when demand rises.
That’s something they did Thursday and will be doing again next week, Brizuela added.
“The challenge is to keep up with the eligibility criteria, the regulations, and then just being flexible to accommodate people,” Brizuela says.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, visit our coronavirus page.