New Brunswick pharmacists have helped get more than 50 per cent of the COVID-19 vaccines in the province into people’s arms and as Omicron bears down and governments continue to encourage people to get boosters, the New Brunswick Pharmacists’ Association is asking people to be patient.
Andrew Drover, the group’s president, said the demand for shots is higher than it has ever been since the vaccine was first introduced about a year ago.
Since the World Health Organization labelled Omicron a variant of concern on Nov. 26, experts and governments alike have encouraged people to register for booster doses if it has been six months since their last shot.
Omicron is much more transmissible and epidemiology experts say cases double every two to two and half days.
This month BioNTech and Pfizer said two vaccine doses resulted in significantly lower neutralizing antibodies but that a third dose of their vaccine increased the neutralizing antibodies by a factor of 25.
In New Brunswick, vaccines are delivered through either participating pharmacies or the two regional health authorities.
“At the moment, the demand is as high as it’s ever been throughout the pandemic. You know, we’re still doing first doses for some people, second doses, obviously booster doses are in high demand and pediatric vaccines,” Drover said in an interview Thursday.
He said in the beginning, there were 218 pharmacies participating in immunizing people; now it’s more like 170. The drop in the number, he said, occurred over time and wasn’t a sudden shift.
He said the process has been daunting at times.
“It’s hard to stay motivated, however, we look at it at the end, the light at the end of the tunnel, and knowing that we are doing our par to bring COVID-19 to a close. Morale in the pharmacy is like anywhere else: we need to remain strong and make sure people take breaks when the time that they need if they need a break,” he said.
He said pharmacists are doing vaccines daily and all of the regular work too.
The week before Christmas is usually the busiest, he added.
Many provinces have opened up eligibility for third COVID-19 vaccine doses to anyone 18 and over, but in New Brunswick, the rollout is a bit more cautious.
It is open to those 50-plus, anyone 18 or up who lives with someone who works in long-term care, hospitals or schools, and people working in child-care facilities and their immediate family members.
Horizon Health Network and Vitalite Health Network both started to roll out walk-in clinics over the past couple of weeks and Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said the province will continue to work on opening up eligibility.
Meanwhile, Drover said pharmacists will continue to be here and get people through the vaccination process.
“I just encourage everyone to be patient with the pharmacy staff when they are looking for a vaccine appointment. We have been doing this for over a year now so we’re doing the best we can to fit people where we can,” he said.
Drover also encourages everyone to check the criteria before making an appointment.