Locals frustrated as vaccine supply at Windsor-Essex pharmacies begins to dry up

·4 min read
Jim Sutherland, 73, says he was disappointed and frustrated to learn that all the vaccines were gone by the time he went to his appointment. (Dan Taekema/CBC - image credit)
Jim Sutherland, 73, says he was disappointed and frustrated to learn that all the vaccines were gone by the time he went to his appointment. (Dan Taekema/CBC - image credit)

When 73-year-old Jim Sutherland heard that pharmacies could start giving vaccines to people between the ages of 64 and 80, he immediately booked an appointment — but when he showed up days later, he was told there wasn't a single shot left.

"The first feeling I had was anger, then disappointment, then frustration because you're told you can come in, you can get your shot. You wait over the weekend just a couple of days, you go over, you're all ready, 'here i am give me the shot' [and then they say], 'sorry no shot,'" Sutherland said.

Pharmacies in Windsor-Essex are running out of their vaccine supply nearly one and a half weeks after a pilot project began. The project saw 500 doses of the Astrazeneca COVID-19 vaccine shipped to each of 57 local pharmacies. And while the doses have to be given out before they expire on April 2, locals are frustrated that some locations are overbooking and then cancelling appointments.

Sandi Lusk had a similar experience to Sutherland, except that she called a Windsor Zehrs ahead of her 71-year-old husband's appointment to make sure she had the right time for Monday. But on the call, the pharmacy told her they had no shots left and said it had notified people over the weekend to cancel appointments.

Justin Bates, the CEO of the Ontario Pharmacists' Association, says he understands the challenges people may be encountering but says he anticipates pharmacies will be restocked in the coming weeks.
Justin Bates, the CEO of the Ontario Pharmacists' Association, says he understands the challenges people may be encountering but says he anticipates pharmacies will be restocked in the coming weeks. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

After this, she said she tried to get her husband in elsewhere and called at least seven other pharmacies across Windsor-Essex, with no luck.

"Everybody's worried," she said. "Everybody should be getting their shot, at least you're partially protected when you get the first shot so it's very frustrating."

75 per cent of doses used

Justin Bates, CEO of Ontario Pharmacists' Association, told CBC News Tuesday that 75 per cent of all doses given out to pharmacies in the three pilot project regions — Toronto, Kingston and Windsor-Essex — have been used up.

He said this is right on track given that the vaccine batch they received was set to expire at the beginning of April.

"This will be a challenge for people to find pharmacies where there is inventory and we're trying to use things like booking appointments to manage that demand and make it as orderly as possible," Bates said.

"We would ask the public to understand the situation and have some patience. But we will work through all the lists and we will make sure everybody has a vaccine once the supply is available."

Though more vaccine is expected to go out to pharmacies in the next two weeks, Bates said there's no set date just yet.

But he said based on this they're planning to include more pharmacies from other regions in the rollout and re-stock pharmacies that have run out.

In an email to CBC News Tuesday, the Ministry of Health said it will be expanding the pilot to include 350 more pharmacies across Ontario in the next two weeks — meaning there would be 700 locations total. By the end of April, the ministry said it hopes to have 1,500 locations on board.

Rob Modestino, owner and pharmacist of Rob's Whole Health Pharmacy in LaSalle, says he has about 500 people already on a wait list to receive the next batch of vaccines.
Rob Modestino, owner and pharmacist of Rob's Whole Health Pharmacy in LaSalle, says he has about 500 people already on a wait list to receive the next batch of vaccines.(Dan Taekema/CBC)

At Rob's Whole Health Pharmacy in LaSalle, owner and pharmacist Rob Modestino says he still has doses left, but they've all been claimed.

By Sunday, he said he anticipates the 150 remaining doses will be in arms.

In order to avoid the frustration, Modestino says he's only booked people for as many vaccines as he has on hand and was careful not to overbook.

"[The rollout has] been something like no others we've seen. It's been hectic. We've been trying to get these vaccines out as fast as we can," Modestino said.

"Having vaccines that expire April 2, we knew that coming in so we knew that it was going to be a tough couple of weeks, but it's well worth it to get everybody vaccinated."

He said he's also cancelled any vaccine appointments he initially made for people who live outside of the region.

"I think we've got to take care of our community first, that's my personal opinion, he said.

"It's tough ... there's 500 local people on a waiting list already so having people in other areas who will get vaccines very soon come out here, to me, it's just not fair."