The COVID-19 vaccine continues to roll out, but no one said the road would not be a bumpy one.

According to Ryan Haggerty, pharmacy manager at Madill’s Drugs in Meadow Lake, the COVID-19 vaccine program has been operating rather smoothly at his location, only, however, when the vaccine itself is actually available.

“The issue for the past couple of weeks has been supply,” Haggerty told Northern Pride when interviewed last week. “We were slated to get 200 doses this week and 200 next week, and they cut us down to zero this week and 100 next week… Our wait list is 800 people deep right now, so anyone phoning in now we’re forced to tell them it will likely be early July by the time we can get them in.”

Haggerty went on to say Madill’s uses an online booking portal and a digital waitlist that has allowed them to easily identify patients. When vaccines are available, the pharmacy can communicate this to patients through text or email.

“Unfortunately, the Moderna supply has been a little bit of a challenge across the province the last couple of weeks,” he said. “But, I understand that is about to level out and we are expected to get a steady stream in the next few weeks… For the most part people are OK being put on a waitlist, but I have also been encouraging people to call around. If they can find openings somewhere, go for it because it’s important everyone get their vaccine as soon as they can.”

This was echoed by Ankita Patel, a pharmacist who works at the pharmacy located within Extra Foods.

“People have been calling from the time we open the store, wanting to book their appointments as soon as possible,” Patel said. “We have only been receiving so much vaccine in the last few weeks, though, so even though we want to book in so many people, we cannot because of the current restrictions. It’s not so much a shortage, but they (Saskatchewan Health Authority) are trying to also send their supply to the various mass clinics.”

Like Haggerty, Patel encourages people who are unwilling to wait to book their vaccines out of town if need be.

“I encourage people to book wherever it is available,” she said. “I am really happy to provide this service to our community, but I want everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, at the Meadow Lake Co-op, pharmacist Joel Lapointe said uptake for the vaccine has been very strong.

“The only challenge is, most recently, there has been a supply issue because they are trying to do mass clinics to get a good chunk of the population done,” he said. “Because of that, we may see a bit of a disruption. SHA is trying to make sure the pharmacies are still getting stock, but they want to do these mass clinics to get as many people done as they can sooner rather than later.”

Also pleased with the uptake for the vaccine is pharmacist Geoff Barton of The Medicine Shoppe.

“ It was a little sluggish to begin with,” Barton said. “My first shipment took about 10 days to get through, but since then it has picked up quite a bit. Today I booked about 180 appointments for next week.”

Barton, however, also said there has been supply issues with the Moderna vaccine.

Recently, Canada’s chief public health officer, Theresa Tam, announced interchangeability of vaccines means a person can receive one vaccine product for their first dose and then safely receive a different vaccine (i.e. Pfizer) for their second dose to complete the two-dose vaccine series.

by Phil Ambroziak