Pharmacies struggle to fill flu vaccine orders as shipments delayed

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WatchMany people are hoping to get a flu shot this time of year, but it may be the toughest ticket in town. Many pharmacies are out of flu vaccine, and don't know when they'll receive more shipments. Mary Griffin reports.

Pharmacist Shannon Sneddon prepared a dose of flu vaccine on Friday.  She expects to be busy with people coming in for their flu shots, including Shannon Vondaldenberg.

“I’ve got one booked for my husband and myself,” Vondaldenberg said.

The scene playing out at the Estevan Pharmacy is unusual in Greater Victoria.  Island Health does the best it can to predict how much vaccine is required, but sometimes they miss the mark, according to Sneddon.

“It all comes through the health unit. They will open up the invitation to submit your order. They look at historical data as well looking at how many shots each place has administered in prior years because when there is a short supply they want to allocate it appropriately,” Sneddon said.

Most pharmacies are out of the vaccine, including the Victoria Compounding Pharmacy, frustrating owner John Forster-Coull.

“The initial vaccine that we received, we used very rapidly, within the first few days. The unfortunate thing is we can’t get a supply of the vaccine. And that’s the issue that we are finding. We’re getting a lineup of patients wanting to get it, but can’t,” Forster-Coull said.

The issue, according to Island Health, is a shipping delay from the manufacturer of flu vaccines. But that doesn’t help Forster-Coull’s patients.

“There is so much demand for it right now, we don’t have time to put people on the waitlist. We just tell them to call us next week, and as soon as we get the vaccine, we can schedule them in. and get them vaccinated,” Forster-Coull said.

Sneddon expects the latest shipment to meet demand.

“This current one we’re hoping will last a month. And so we have placed yet another order. We don’t know when that one might arrive or if there is still inventory that will be allocated to us,” Sneddon said.

That’s why Brian Varney is one of the lucky ones. He is getting his shot today from pharmacist Hilary Kidson.

“I came in last week and they didn’t have the shots available. So today I just randomly came by and they are available. It’s great,” Varney said.

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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