Manitoba pharmacists are ready and willing to give out more coronavirus vaccines, but they can’t until the province hands them over.
Barret Procyshyn, a member of Pharmacists Manitoba and pharmacist at Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy, is finished the 200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine the province gave him earlier this month and wants more.
“As the supply increases in Manitoba, we’re kind of waving our hands saying, ‘Hey, get us some more vaccines,'” Procyshyn said. “We’re ready and we have the resources and the staff available to help out a lot more.”
Not only is he hoping for more of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but he would also like to offer Pfizer and Moderna shots, as that would result in a wider range of people elidable to make an appointment at his pharmacy.
However, the Manitoba government is keeping Pfizer and Moderna for its supersites.
But the supersites, according to Procyshyn, are not convenient for everyone and many people prefer to get vaccinated at their local pharmacy.
“People feel comfortable with their pharmacy. They know where to park, they know who to talk to,” Procyshyn said. “The thing pharmacists take pride in is being accessible.”
Dr. Joss Reimer, Manitoba’s vaccine task force lead, said there are a number of reasons the province isn’t handing out Pfizer and Moderna to pharmacists.
For one, she said, the vaccines, particularly the one from Pfizer, need to be used efficiently because they expire quickly.
“At fridge temperature, Pfizer has told us that they’re only stable for six days, whereas Moderna has 30 days and AstraZeneca has six months,” Reimer said.
Reimer also said the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are sensitive and could require the people handling them to go through extra training.
However, she did say the province is weighing its options and could potentially give pharmacists more than just AstraZeneca.
“We wanted to start them off with something that they’re already familiar with,” Reimer said. “But we are still exploring other options.”
Some provinces, however, have already given pharmacists two or more of the approved vaccines.
Pam Lavold, owner of The Medicine Shoppe in Edmonton, is currently offering Pfizer.
She said she has no problem filling appointments before the shots go bad.
“We had 1,600 people on our wait list, so the logistics of trying to book appointments for 200 doses per week, that’s the challenge,” Lavold said. “The challenge is not using the vaccine efficiently.”
Jeff Leger, president of Shoppers Drug Mart, said the vaccine rollout is going well in all the provinces where his pharmacies are using multiple vaccines.
He said Shoppers pharmacies in Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Quebec, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan are either already using, or are expected to soon be using, vaccines other than AstraZeneca.
“Our pharmacists are very skilled, they’re very capable of lining up the appropriate number of people in terms of appointments, making sure that they manage the supply effectively, get it into arms quickly,” Leger said. “All of that has gone very well in the provinces where we’re using very sensitive vaccines, so there is a track record.”