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Dwindling AstraZeneca supply sends B.C. women on vaccine road trip

Amid dwindling stocks of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and high demand, some British Columbians are going far afield to try and get “the jab.”

“For me it was an enormous weight lifted, I was quite emotional,” Janelle David told Global News.

She and coworker and fellow Masters weightlifter Cat Hambly found themselves on an unexpected spur of the moment road trip to Whistler, Saturday — after striking out on a shot at the shot in Vancouver.

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On Friday, news of a walk-in vaccine clinic at Vancouver Community College spread rapidly through word of mouth, attracting large crowds, hundreds of whom were turned away when supply ran out.

Hambly and David returned to the site early Saturday morning hoping to get in early.

“(We) lined up with hundreds of people, it went around the block twice. And once the clinic opened at 9:30, about an hour later we were notified they were out of doses,” David said.

Click to play video: NACI recommends AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for Canadians 30+

Both Hambly and David registered to be vaccinated as soon as eligibility opened for their age group, and both were on multiple waitlists for the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The pair are both competing virtually in upcoming world championships next month and were hoping to get their shot as soon as possible so it didn’t interfere with training.

After being turned away Saturday, they decided to start looking farther afield.

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A friend in Squamish told them there were still bookings available — a tip that turned out to be correct but conflicted with their work schedule. But further up Highway 99, they got lucky with an open slot in Whistler.

That’s where a Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacist told them he had bookings available and assured them they were permitted to travel to the community for a shot.

“We assumed it was the same health region, but verified it with him,” David said.

“Like the IKEA ad I said ‘Start the car,’ and we jumped in the car and raced to Whistler in two hours.”

Click to play video: Demand for AstraZeneca vaccine spikes in B.C.

B.C. opened eligibility for the AstraZeneca vaccine to people over the age of 40 on Monday, with people responsible for finding and booking their own shot through a community pharmacy.

Those bookings filled up fast, with most pharmacies now running long waitlists.

On Thursday, provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province had not received any shipments of the vaccine since the week before and wasn’t sure when it would get more.

“We have very little of it left in the province right now,” she said.

Many have since turned to social media, where accounts like @VaxHuntersCan have been sharing locations that still have supply available.

Hambly chalked the massive demand among the Gen-Xers to the fact that the demographic remains on the front lines of the pandemic.

“We’re the workers still, right? We’re out there with the public.”

David said working closely with clients every day during the pandemic left her constantly anxious.

“It’s weighed heavily that I could become ill, they could become ill, we could be passing it along,” she said.

Read more:
COVID-19: AstraZeneca vaccine supply dries up in B.C. Interior

With much of B.C.’s remaining supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine now being redirected to clinics in 13 high-transmission communities, the search for available shots is likely to only get tougher.

But the pair say those looking to be vaccinated shouldn’t give up.

“Just be persistent,” Hambly said.

“Just be hungry for it,” David added. “This is a time when we have to take our health into our own hands and do what we need to do.”

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