University seeks further supplies as demand outstrips capacity
As the days get shorter and the air gets colder, the provincial government is urging people to get vaccinated against influenza, more commonly known as the flu. While COVID-19 restrictions prevented a strong flu season in 2020, health officials are already noticing an uptick in cases in 2021. The lack of a flu season last year also means that people will be less immune to its effects this year.
To do their part, the university offered free clinics to UVic students on the 27 and 28 of Oct. and the 1 and 3 of Nov. No appointments were necessary and it was expected that students would be able to get inoculated between classes. The UVic pharmacy is also offering appointment bookings online.
Another flu vaccine clinic will take place on Nov. 22 from 10:30 – 2:30 at Bibliocafe. The clinic will be open to all current students and no appointment is necessary.
However, many students, such as El Hobson, have faced long lines and a waitlist. Some have been unable to get the shot yet after UVic’s supplies ran dry.
“It’s a bit of a process that I feel like it shouldn’t be so lengthy,” Hobson told the Martlet.
Upon seeing the long lines to get into the vaccine clinics being held on campus, Hobson went to the UVic campus pharmacy to ask whether they were distributing the vaccine. Hobson was then directed to sign up for a waitlist on the UVic pharmacy website.
“I thought it was weird because the waitlist didn’t tell you how many people were ahead of you,” Hobson told the Martlet.
Hobson says she also signed up for the waitlist at Heart Pharmacy in Cadboro Bay and visited a Shoppers Drug Mart. She says the Shoppers told her they were also waiting on vaccine supplies and were unable to provide a tentative appointment date for a free dose. Privately provided doses are $20.
Thankfully, Hobson says she was informed after a week and a half about an opening at the UVic Pharmacy on Nov. 9. While Hobson has now received an appointment to receive her flu shot, some other students are wondering when they will be able to get it.
“At the end of the day, it only took a week and a half, I would say, to get the actual email,” she said. “I also know [other students] that are still waiting for flu shots.”
In an email to the Martlet, UVic Public Affairs said that the issues are the result of a shortage of vaccine supplies.
“The Student Wellness team is working very hard to secure an extra supply of flu vaccines,” said UVic Associate Director of Public Affairs Karen Johnston. “We hope to open two additional vaccine clinics on campus later this month.”
The university has been informed that due to a change in process by the BCCDC, there is less vaccine to go around, according to Johnston.
“In the past, vaccine was distributed from the BCCDC to each health authority in the province, and then the health authority would distribute to the community,” said Johnston. “This year, the BCCDC distributes to both the health authority and pharmacies, which means the health authority has less vaccine to distribute to community clinics (like the Student Wellness Centre).”
UVic continues to receive vaccines weekly.
Immunize BC carries an updated list of places that offer vaccination appointments which includes most pharmacies. Some local to campus are Heart Pharmacy in Cadboro Bay and the two Rexall stores on Mckenzie Avenue. Some grocery stores, such as the Save-On-Foods at University Heights Shopping Centre, also offer appointments.
In order to make the vaccine accessible, the government has made it free for all people in B.C. over the age of six months. Prior to this year, the flu shot was only free for seniors, pregnant people, and those with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems.
It doesn’t just seem to be the university that is short on doses, however. Pharmacies across the province have reported an inability to meet demand. There have been concerns that the province would not be able to produce the estimated 2.4 million doses in time, as it is a substantial increase from the 1.5 million they have distributed in recent years. However, the province appears to have been able to keep up with production. Rather, it is only distributing doses as needs arise.
For Hobson, however, it felt like the process for getting a vaccine should have been smoother.