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'Unexpected interruption' leads to delays in COVID-19 vaccinations locally, provincially

A delay in the supply of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine will leave some Albertans waiting a little longer to get vaccinated.
DNA image of COVID-19. (via Getty Images)

CANMORE – A delay in the supply of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine will leave some Albertans waiting a little longer to get vaccinated.

A shipment of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine had an “unexpected interruption in supply from the Government of Canada,” said Alberta Premier Jason Kenney on Thursday (March 18). He added 43 pharmacies were impacted, leading to thousands of appointments being postponed or rescheduled

The Bow Valley also felt the delay, with at least one local pharmacy postponing more than 300 appointments.

Scott McLeod, pharmacist for Shoppers Drug Mart in Canmore, said they were notifying patients Thursday via text and phone of the delay.

The Outlook reached out to all three pharmacies administering the vaccine in the Bow Valley to see if they were affected. The Save-On-Foods pharmacy in Canmore referred all questions to its head office. Attempts to reach Save-On-Foods corporate office were unsuccessful.

Gourlay’s pharmacy in Banff said they administered about 100 doses Thursday and were waiting to see if they were affected by the delay.

McLeod said for people who have an appointment, it’s important to keep it rather than go looking for an earlier one.

“The best thing for society is for everyone to get a shot in the arm," he said. "Don’t go appointment hunting or vaccine shopping. If you get an appointment, take it and please keep it instead of trying to find an earlier one.”

Kenney said a cargo plane malfunction led to delays in the Moderna doses being delivered, causing next week’s delivery to not being made. Attempts to reach Moderna Canada were unsuccessful.

A spokesperson for the province said a backup plane was able to be used and the remaining doses were expected to be delivered, but some pharmacies would be affected.

“Due to the limited vaccine supply that is available in Alberta, we continue to target seniors and others most at risk of severe outcomes, and those who work directly with them,” said Sherene Khaw, an assistant communications director with the province.

McLeod said his pharmacy's shipment was coming from the federal government’s logistics hub in Milton, Ontario.

Alberta’s Minister of Health Tyler Shandro said it was a “temporary setback” and that “vaccines are the path to opening up life again.”

The Moderna vaccine is more likely to be used for remote or rural communities. Once it leaves the freezer, it remains stable for 30 days in a controlled refrigerated environment.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is good for about 120 hours after leaving a freezer, leaving it more likely to be used in large urban settings.

As of March 18, more than 418,663 doses of the vaccine had been administered and more than 90,000 fully vaccinated.

There were 5,084 active cases as of Thursday night and 1,957 deaths in the province since the pandemic began, according to federal government data.

Kenney said Thursday that 259 pharmacies in 107 communities were administering vaccine doses.

He said the government is aiming to have about 500 pharmacies available by early April. He noted the province’s plan is to have every adult able to get their first vaccine by the end of June.

According to a release from the province, more than 35,000 vaccine doses have been administered at pharmacies in Alberta.

Albertans born in 1956 or earlier and staff and senior residents of licensed supportive living facilities are eligible for the vaccine. First Nations, Metis and Inuit people 50 and older are also prioritized.

All appointments have to be booked in advance, according to the province, with no walk-ins permitted.

Khaw recommended all pharmacies use a waitlist and only book appointments once their supply for a week has been confirmed.

The Canadian and American governments were finalizing a deal to possibly send about 1.5 million doses to Canada and 2.5 million to Mexico of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

It’s not yet clear when or where the vaccines would be distributed in Canada.

McLeod said his pharmacy has about a 300-person waiting list, but that people have been understanding that the process takes time.

“We’re appreciative for all our patients being patient.”

Greg Colgan

About the Author: Greg Colgan

Greg is the editor for the Outlook.
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