Some pharmacies struggle to find eligible arms for vaccine

Some pharmacy employees describe getting far more doses of COVID vaccine than expected, working long hours to find eligible people.

In phone calls and email exchanges with more than a dozen people Monday, a picture emerged of a chaotic system that is still managing to keep doses from going to waste.

According to provincial protocols, pharmacies are to use a waitlist to help make sure any doses left in opened vials are used by the end of the day, and for thawed vaccine batches before their five day expiry.

But CTV News has spoken to people with underlying conditions but not old enough to qualify under the current Phase 2B, who were informed by friends of a pharmacy with leftover doses. By the end of the day several in the group had been vaccinated.

In another instance, a 69-year-old man showed up at his scheduled appointment, only to be told the pharmacy had not had any vaccine for three weeks.

"I feel sorry for the pharmacists because they're the ones on the front line having to tell people," said Danny Kowarchuk.

"From my standpoint you're at a point of total anxiety and frustration because where do you go? Do you start the process over again?"

There are other issues for people who are qualified too. Del Arnold is a frontline health care worker in a Calgary hospital. He says he's seen hundreds of COVID cases, including some who were severely ill, since the start of the pandemic.

He also has adult cystic fibrosis, a serious hereditary lung disease that puts him at particularly high risk. He says the danger is some of what he signed up for in his career, but he's frustrated that he still hasn't been able to get a shot.

"I called a couple of times about getting an appointment and they've refused me both times," Arnold said.

"I mean it's airborne and it puts us at significant risk. We should be getting our vaccine, but we're just not getting it."

Over the Easter weekend some pharmacies had long lineups as people waited in hopes of getting left-over vaccine doses.

CTV News spoke with a 61-year-old woman who said she is perfectly healthy, but was called by her pharmacy to book an appointment for next week. She turned it down, feeling there had to be others who needed it more urgently.

There are no allegations of wrongdoing or significant queue jumping, but in an effort to keep up with perishable supplies, some pharmacies are accepting people who would not normally qualify for the current phase of vaccination.

AHS guidelines call for leftover and expiring doses to be offered to the next birth years in Phases 2B and 2C, followed by offers to the oldest individual possible.