The two pharmacies – Pharmacie Jean Coutu in Hawkesbury and Embrun Remedy Rx’s, were named on Thursday morning on the province’s website as administrators of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Residents could check the covid-19.ontario.ca/vaccine-locations website for days when appointments would be made available. Those aged 55 and over, who held an Ontario health card or other form of government-issued identification were eligible for the free dose.
While the pharmacies were listed on the province’s websites on Thursday morning, the stores themselves had not been informed at the time that they would receive the vaccines. Staff at the Jean Coutu pharmacy, located at 80 rue Principale in Hawkesbury, have received phone inquiries since Monday from people wanting to get vaccinated.
While vaccines have since arrived, Claude Corriveau, the store manager, said during an interview on Thursday that the outlet was still waiting for official confirmation from the provincial government that it is one of the two pharmacies in the Prescott-Russell region designated for vaccine distribution.
“It’s pending,” Corriveau said at the time. “We’re still waiting for the (official) go-ahead. We don’t even have the vaccine yet.”
The pharmacy has since offered vaccines by appointment. The two pharmacies were part of a wider rollout of an earlier trial of pharmacy administration of doses, which had been limited to Toronto, Windsor-Essex and the Kingston area.
Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis said he had only seen the spreadsheet with the list of pharmacies shortly before a media briefing on Thursday afternoon. He said the local health unit did not have any say in the pharmacies the government chose.
“It’s kind of a disconnect in the system and I’ve raised my concerns about that,” he said. “I think pharmacies are important and we should have more connectivity and a way to understand it. I’m hoping that will improve in terms of communication.”
Meanwhile, the EOHU’s mass vaccination clinics have opened to those aged 70 and over. Anyone born in 1951 or earlier can apply for their vaccine at ontario.ca/bookvaccine. Those who require assistance can also call 1-888-999-6488. Those who book will receive appointments for both their first and second doses, which were currently scheduled to be held six weeks apart.
Dr. Roumeliotis said about 40,000 more doses were expected to be sent to the EOHU during April. More AstraZeneca was also expected to be delivered to primary care providers in the region. Eight mass immunization clinics have been planned per week for the next four weeks between April 9 and the start of May.
“With all these numbers… we’ll be able to vaccinate substantially more people between now and the end of the [four-week] shutdown,” he said. “That’ll have a real positive impact on the numbers.”