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North Shore vaccine hunters search out distant pharmacy shots on social media

Very little AstraZeneca vaccine left, but age-based vaccination will ramp up soon, says Henry
Vaccination Clinic 03 MW web
The age-based program being carried out at clinics like the one in North Vancouver will accelerate to younger age groups soon, say health officials.

As limited supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccine dwindle in local pharmacies, some North Shore residents who don’t want to wait for their age to come up in the public health vaccination program have been hunting down tips on social media and driving to other communities across the Lower Mainland to get their shots.

AstraZeneca vaccines from pharmacies have been available to people 40-65 for the past 10 days. But as demand suddenly spiked among those hoping to get their shots, the amount of vaccine available quickly dwindled.

With no central booking system for the pharmacy shots, local vaccine hunters have been relying on texts from friends, posts on Facebook and Twitter accounts like @VaxHuntersBC to find available appointments.

“Just hearing that the vaccination centre at Poirier Forum in Coquitlam is accepting walk ins,” wrote one pleased vaccine hunter on a local Facebook site this week.

“I just got myself a shot in North Delta for Friday afternoon,” wrote another.

Kirsten Seuss, a North Vancouver resident who turns 40 this year, said she turned to friends and social media after being unable to find an appointment on the North Shore.

“I’m on tons of wait-lists for closer to home,” she said. “Most of my friends have all gone out and got AstraZeneca.”

Seuss said she found an appointment at a pharmacy in Surrey and plans to drive there to get the shot.

“I definitely had a bit of conflict about whether it was the right thing to do,” she said. But she added while the pop-up clinics were targeted to hot spot area residents, there’s been no indication that’s the case with regular pharmacy appointments.

“I figure I have an appointment now so I might as well go.”

A few people on a local Facebook site also questioned whether North Shore residents should be snapping up vaccine appointments in Fraser Health hot spots – or giving tips to others to do that.

“I support targeting communities with higher transmission rates. But what is the point of just letting anyone who drives to the clinic get the shot, then?” asked one member of the local COVID information Facebook group.

On Thursday, Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s medical health officer, and Health Minister Adrian Dix said there is very little supply of AstraZeneca vaccine left in the province now and none is expected soon.

But supplies of the Pfizer vaccine are expected to increase very soon, said Henry. “In the next month, we expect to receive over one million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. And that means that our age-based program will be accelerated and everybody will get their turn,” she said.

Henry and Dix urged everyone to register for a vaccination on the government website as the most efficient way of getting to book a vaccine appointment.

Public health clinics are currently booking vaccine appointments for people in their late 50s.

A few vaccine hunters also reported they were still able to get one of the rare COVID shots at a local pharmacy.