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Thursday, August 11, 2022
NOTL pharmacy gets first 400 shots of vaccine

But with 4,000 on wait list, Simpson's doesn't yet know when supply will be replenished


A Niagara-on-the-Lake pharmacy began distributing 400 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine this week to some of the estimated 4,000 people on its waiting list.

But at this point it is unclear when the first shipment will be replenished so more patients can get the jab, says pharmacist Sean Simpson.

His two pharmacy locations, in Virgil and on King Street in Old Town, each were allotted 200 doses of vaccine after Ontario last week expanded the number of pharmacies permitted to dispense the shots. He is confident the new stay-at-home orders issued Wednesday will not interrupt the vaccine rollout.

Simpson's Pharmacy was the only NOTL drugstore included on the list.

With 10 people inoculated Monday, another 40 done on Tuesday and 42 scheduled for Wednesday, Simpson expects to be able order another shipment on Thursday.

He is permitted to put in a request for more vials once 120 doses have been given out.

But this phase of the vaccination program is so new, “We don't even know how to reorder,” Simpson said Tuesday.

“All we know is that we're eligible to reorder but they haven't even told us how to do that.  We're hoping that they'll tell us soon but there's a possibility that means we could reorder on Thursday and expect more on Friday. Or we could reorder on Thursday and get it a week later, or not get any at all.”

So far, the rollout at his pharmacy has gone smoothly, though he said it's frustrating not knowing and not having any guarantees.

“But we can only deal with the circumstances we're in at any given time. You kind of have to roll with the punches and deal with what's in front of you at the time and figure out how to proceed from there.”

The pharmacy is whittling away at its long wait list now and people are “very happy” about being able to get a booking, he said. 

Most patients are contacted electronically based on their position on the waiting list. When they come in they are automatically booked for their second shot 16 weeks down the road, Simpson said.

No-shows have been a problem at some clinics, but everyone showed up for their appointments the first two days and he hopes that trend continues.

As of Tuesday, he said he expected to not have enough vaccine to do shots on the weekend at the Virgil location, though he hoped to be able to do some inoculations at the Old Town store.

The vaccines are allotted to each site and can't be transferred between locations without permission from the government, he said.

Each AstraZeneca vial contains about 10 doses, though Simpson said they have been able to squeeze an extra shot out of some vials. 

Most of the people his pharmacies are seeing are “very, very excited” to be vaccinated.

“But then there's people that are a little more reserved and perhaps hesitant. And there's everything in between.”

His advice? Get the shot. “The best vaccine is the vaccine that you can get today. By waiting around you're just putting yourself more at risk.”

“For most people their number one priority right now should be to get vaccinated,” he said.