Ask Your Pharmacist

April 08, 2021
Q:

I’m on a list to get my COVID-19 vaccine in two weeks but my friend already got her vaccine.  Why is it taking so long? 

A:

New Brunswick pharmacies began to receive shipments of COVID-19 vaccine supply in a staggered pattern from March 17 to 24, 2021. For logistical reasons, not all pharmacies received their shipments at once. As soon as vaccine supply was received, immunizers began to vaccinate based on New Brunswick Public Health direction to prioritize based on age.

The first age cohort eligible for vaccination at pharmacies was those over 85. While other eligible age groups continue to be announced, some pharmacies may not be at that stage yet because the vaccination process takes time and depends on the vaccine supply allotted to each pharmacy by Public Health.

As you might imagine, the approximately 218 participating pharmacies across the province cannot possibly be at the same stage in the vaccination campaign. Pharmacies can vaccinate only based on the number of vaccine doses received per week. This decision is made by Public Health based on vaccine supply, which remains unpredictable. Patient demographics vary at each pharmacy as well, which means each pharmacy progresses with vaccinations at different rates. It is also important to remember that each pharmacy has a different number of staff who are certified to immunize which also impacts how many vaccinations each pharmacy can do.

Think of the vaccination process as an airport departure lounge filled with people waiting to board an airliner. Although everyone with a ticket is getting on the plane, and the plane isn’t taking off until all passengers are on board, there are only so many people who can board the plane through the gate at one time. For this reason, planes are boarded by zones. Passengers wait until their zone is announced by the flight crew, and when the passengers in all the zones are finally boarded, the plane takes off.

We have waited over a year for a vaccine. This seems like a very long time, I know. It’s actually lightning speed progress thanks to the best scientific minds on the planet collaborating together, based on the clinical trial machinery that was already in place, and thanks to a large amount of government and private funds devoted to finding a vaccine.

This is the largest vaccination campaign ever mounted in New Brunswick. Immunizers really need your patience and your support. We remain excited and motivated to get you vaccinated because we care about your health. It has been disheartening for pharmacy teams, however, to bear the brunt of public frustration. We understand your anxiousness to get immunized and we are doing everything we can to facilitate this, however we ask the public to be patient and tolerant with pharmacy staff, who should not be the target of irritation.

Please call us with your questions about your medications or if you are unsure about the decision to receive your vaccine. If you are in a group eligible to get vaccinated at a pharmacy, please check to see if your pharmacy has an online booking tool to schedule your appointment. If your pharmacy does not have online booking, call and get added to their list. Please remember that even though your age group may be eligible for immunization, different pharmacies will be at different stages. I encourage you to call your regular pharmacy first to see if you can get your vaccine there but if they don’t have vaccine available or the wait list is long, you can call other pharmacies to see if they have available doses. Please do not book appointments at more than one pharmacy.

Be patient. This plane will not take off until everyone is on board. The New Brunswick government has assured us that each New Brunswicker who wants a vaccine will receive a first dose by Canada Day weekend. Pharmacy teams are committed to help to make this happen. For specific questions on vaccine eligibility please visit: https://www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/corporate/promo/covid-19/nb-vaccine.html or call Public Health at 1 833 437 1424.

Dr Kevin Duplisea (PharmD BSc. Pharm, BSc. ACPR) is a pharmacist at Sharp’s Corner Drugstore in Sussex, New Brunswick. His opinions expressed in this newspaper are published for educational and informational purposes only, and are not intended as a diagnosis, treatment or as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Send your questions to AskYourNBPharmacist@gmail.com.