Flu shot vaccine supply on the Island is now limited, according to the Chief Public Health Office (CPHO), but so far there has been no overall shortage. High dose and regular dose shots are still available.
Public health nurses continue to offer vaccines and pharmacies are permitted to order 50 doses per day from provincial stock. The CPHO has also ordered 2,000 more vaccines to distribute on the Island and these are expected to arrive at the end of November.
Erin MacKenzie, Executive Director of the PEI Pharmacists Association, said PEI seems to be well positioned with the number of regular-dose flu vaccines obtained so far this season even with increased demand.
More than 79,000 shots have been distributed to public health nurses and Island pharmacies, which is more than ever. An increased demand was projected by CPHO this year as a reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ms MacKenzie said demand at pharmacies has been higher this year. Island pharmacies have administered 41,500 flu shots so far compared to a total of 37,100 last year.
Jonathan Broderick, manager of Montague Pharmasave, said his pharmacy usually administers 700-800 flu shots per year. This year 1,000 have already been given and a daily demand continues.
High-dose flu vaccines, recommended for those 65 years of age or older, are in shorter supply but they are still available at some pharmacies, through primary care providers and through public health.
Ms MacKenzie recommends calling ahead to obtain the high-dose shot from a pharmacy.
Some local pharmacies have run out of regular flu shots for a day or two here and there.
“This is not unusual,” Ms MacKenzie said.
At the beginning of the season, pharmacies order wholesale batches. Sometimes an individual pharmacy will run out between these orders because of fluctuations in demand early on.
Near the end of the season, wholesale batches available to pharmacies typically run out and pharmacies then rely on ordering remaining shots from the Provincial Pharmacy or redistribution among pharmacies.
“The transition from sending your order in to your regular wholesaler and finding out they don’t have any more in stock can cause delays. It can take a few days to smooth that wrinkle out,” Ms MacKenzie said.
“If you order a batch of 50 on a Friday and a few families come in looking for shots over the weekend you might run low or run out before the next order arrives,” she added.
Desi Peters, a pharmacist with RemedyRx in Souris, said they ran out of shots for a couple days but then they have been able to get supply as needed. He added that it seems the provincial supply is starting to stretch thin with maximum orders of 50 per day.
“We’re down to one or two,” Mr Broderick said on Wednesday, November 18, about stock remaining from his wholesale orders.
He had submitted an application to receive additional doses from the Provincial Pharmacy, but he was unsure when those would arrive.
By Friday, November 20, there were no doses available at RemedyRx.
While there are still no overall issues with the Island’s supply of regular-dose flu shots, according to Ms MacKenzie, this could of course change depending on unprecedented demand moving forward.
The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends everyone six months of age and older, who do not have contraindications to the vaccine, get a flu shot this year.
Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic