Hundreds of booster doses gone to waste, says Kelowna pharmacist

Booster doses go to waste

Victoria Femia

UPDATE: 4:16 p.m.

Interior Health says they follow a number of waste mitigation strategies for vaccines which includes preparing sufficient vaccines to meet the expected demand.

Since booster doses are provided by appointment only at IH clinics, they say they have a "good understanding" of the expected demand each day.

"If open vaccine remains at the end of a clinic day, it may be used the following day or transported to another clinic or health centre for use before expiring. These waste mitigation efforts have resulted in negligible vaccine wastage," said Interior Health.

ORIGINAL: 3:15 p.m.

Some Kelowna pharmacists have noticed a steep drop off in people coming to pharmacies for booster shots, resulting in a number of doses going to waste.

“Initial uptake was tremendous, phone was ringing off the hook and bookings were pretty much immediately, 100% booked up which was fantastic,” said pharmacy manager at Pharmasave on Doyle Avenue, Brett Federko.

“Now the vast majority of our bookings are not booked up, so tons of spots available.”

The pharmacy manager at the Pharmasave in Mission Park Shopping Centre, Bob Der, has noticed similar trends.

“I’m not sure what the reason was, all of sudden there was a big drop. We had to waste 300 doses a couple weeks ago cause there was no call for it. So now we got another 400 shots that just came in,” said Der.

In the last two months Der said the pharmacy had to dispose of approximately 600 doses of the booster.

With another 400 booster doses recently arrived, Der says he's concerns having that many on hand with few people to administer them to.

“When we order, we have to order a minimum of 200 doses, but really you waste 400 doses because you give half a dose, so they sent me 200 doses at a time, that’s the minimum you can get,” said Der.

As of Feb. 1, the Ministry of Health reports 46.4 per cent of eligible people aged 12 and up have received their third dose of vaccine in the province, while 90.1 per cent have received two doses.

In the Central Okanagan, third-dose vaccination rates increased to 45% on Feb. 1, up from 35% on Jan. 18, according to the BCCDC.

Der said the pharmacy tries to make people aware they offer the booster, by putting up signs out front and on the counter, but “there’s still no interest.”

Federko says the drop in numbers at the clinic looking to get the booster could be due to a lack of interest, or the number of different ways to get the jab.

“It’s probably a little bit of everything. The sheer number of pharmacies and public health clinics that are offering it, definitely thins out the population of people that would be coming to each individual location,” said Federko.

According to the BC government’s COVID-19 vaccine booking website, there are 20 sites in Kelowna alone that administer the booster, including several pharmacies.

In West Kelowna there are three locations that offer the shot.

The sealed booster vial has a month shelf life, and once it is punctured it has to be used fully within 24 hours.

Bookings for the booster can be done online on the Pharmasave website. You can also book your booster dose on Interior Health’s website, six months after your second dose.

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