While there are currently no vaccination community clinics scheduled in Niagara-on-the-Lake, local pharmacies and primary care doctors are now able to offer appointments to those 40 years older and up.
Niagara Stone Road Pharmacy, Simpson’s Pharmacy and Simpson’s Apothecary are offering AstraZeneca vaccinations to those who are eligible under provincial guidelines, which have been lowered this week to include those who are 40 and up.
Julie Dyck, pharmacist and owner of Niagara Stone Road Pharmacy says she had one phone call from a woman who was “crying tears of joy” that at the age of 40, she could finally be vaccinated.
Dyck has just recently started her vaccination program, and so far has had one shipment of 200 doses of vaccine. She is still taking appointments, planning on doing 40 a day, and hoping for enough vaccine to continue at that rate, but also knowing she will have to be flexible based on supply.
She joked that she rested up last weekend, expecting this to be a busy week, and is excited to get started on her vaccination rollout.
She was happy to see the age group lowered from 55 to 40 for pharmacy vaccinations, she says, which will now include a substantial number of people, including the younger generation we’re seeing more of in town.
Asked about the number of pharmacies in Toronto and other areas that can’t get rid of their supply of AstraZeneca, which is what all pharmacies are receiving, pharmacist Sean Simpson says, “I can’t possibly relate.”
He had a waiting list of about 600 people at the beginning of the week, and will continue to operate as he has since he began offering vaccinations, with people adding their name to the list as they become eligible.
He also encourages people to sign up in as many places as they can, and take the first appointment offered.
He is more concerned about vaccine supply, and will open up more appointments when he is sure he will receive more doses.
Dr. Mustafa Hirji, Niagara’s acting chief medical officer of health, says he has heard some resistance to AstraZeneca, which is now being offered to people 40 and over, but that in many cases, pharmacists are able to “work through it” by explaining the very minimal risk, and the benefits from being vaccinated with any of the vaccines, which virtually eliminate the risk of serious illness or death.
Primary care doctors may be hearing more hesitancy because they are reaching out to patients to offer them a vaccination, rather than to people who have signed up on a waiting list because they are anxious to be vaccinated. Doctors also have an opportunity to discuss their concerns with their patients, he says. To counter those who are hesitant, Hirji says, “there are enough people who do want it” that there isn’t unused vaccine in Niagara.
When the province lowered the age to the 40-plus group, about 126,000 more Niagara residents became eligible for vaccinations.
He is not wavering from his message that the first vaccine offered is the best. “We’re seeing more cases, more hospitalizations and more deaths. The sooner you are able to protect yourself, the better.”