London Drugs apologizes after messy rollout of vaccination program

Mar 31 2021, 5:42 pm

As 55 to 65-year-olds in the Lower Mainland scramble to book a COVID-19 vaccination at a pharmacy, London Drugs has issued an apology after a messy rollout of the program’s booking system.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health announced that residents of Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) and Fraser Health (FH) between the ages of 55 and 65 would be able to receive an AstraZeneca or COVISHIELD vaccination starting this week.

The provincial government said that registration would open on Wednesday, March 31, but by Tuesday evening, London Drugs announced that all available appointments had already been booked.

They would later issue an apology on social media, explaining that they were never told they had to wait before accepting and booking appointments.

“As soon as the news was public, all of our Lower Mainland British Columbia stores became inundated with customers wanting to book appointments,” London Drugs says on Twitter.

“There was no requirement we were aware of in our information by government to wait to take appointments, only that vaccines would be made available to us the morning of March 31.”

And although London Drugs makes up only three of the 113 participating locations where vaccination can be received, it appears that pharmacies across the Lower Mainland are being slammed with people eager to be immunized.

A pharmacy employee in North Vancouver told Daily Hive that phone calls have been flooding in since Tuesday afternoon.

“They’re clogging up the phone lines so people who are actually trying to refill their prescriptions can’t reach us,” they told Daily Hive. “We have to gatekeep and check if they’re just asking about the COVID-19 vaccine or if they actually need to talk to the pharmacy.”

They also stressed that they were notified about the program at the same time the announcement was made.

“We found out the same day as everyone else, through the news articles posted yesterday afternoon. That’s when all the calls started flooding in,” they explained. “We were given zero information, no heads up, no vaccines, no booking system.”

Health officials in British Columbia haven’t specified how many doses of the AstraZeneca and COVISHIELD vaccines are being allotted for the pharmacy program but stress that “more vaccine doses are on the way.”

“Everyone who is eligible and who wants a vaccine will get one, ahead of schedule and before Canada Day,” says Health Minister Adrian Dix in a written statement. “We must all be patient and continue to follow the guidelines that are keeping us all as safe and healthy as possible.”

Dix added that they’re currently “waiting on Health Canada’s recommendations” regarding the AstraZeneca vaccination as the use of the vaccine was suspended in Canada for those under 55 on Monday. 

The recommendation was made by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) following rare cases of blood clots following the use of the vaccine.

This adverse event, called vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia (VIPIT), has occurred primarily in women under 55, the vice-chair of NACI, Dr. Shelley Deeks, previously stated.

Health officials are anticipating further information in the coming days.

Vincent PlanaVincent Plana

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