Demand surges for AstraZeneca in pharmacies and clinics as Manitoba lowers age eligibility to 40

WINNIPEG — Many people who are 40 and older were busy working the phones Monday to try and book an appointment to get the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The province lowered the age eligibility because officials said tens of thousands of doses were sitting in clinics and pharmacies across the province.

But they may not be for long. Demand has spiked among the 40 and over crowd.

“I’m excited and hopefully it’s good and more people take advantage,” said Shannon Johnson.

Johnson, who’s exactly 40, tried booking an appointment Monday but didn’t have any luck.

Shady Soliman, a pharmacist at Osborne Village Pharmacy, said demand for the vaccine surged when the province expanded the eligibility to anyone 40 and older.

“I have appointments lined up for about 70 shots,” said Soliman.“We’re not actually taking any more appointments.”

The previous eligibility for the AstraZeneca vaccine was 65 and over and people 55 and older with certain underlying health conditions.

Manitoba last month paused the use of the vaccine in younger people over a rare blood clotting condition which has so far affected two Canadians.

Provincial officials now say the benefit of the vaccine far outweighs the risk.

“Certainly, everyone will make their own informed choice on whether to be vaccinated,” said Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer. “My advice is to be vaccinated as soon as you can and be vaccinated with whichever vaccine you’re offered.”

Dr. Lori Koz has 100 doses in the fridge at her medical clinic in Osborne Village and hopes to start vaccinations as soon as Wednesday.

“We’ve started booking the appointments now that we have patients calling,” said Koz“Our phone is ringing off the hook.”

Before the age range changed, Koz said most of the people who were inquiring weren’t eligible to get the shot and she worried she might not have anyone to give the doses to.

“They were only good until May 25, the batch that I have,” said Koz“But now I’m sure I’ll probably have all of them given within a week.”

Some people have been hesitant to get the AstraZeneca shot over the blood-clotting concerns. But experts have said the risk of developing blood clots from COVID-19 is higher than the risk of getting blood clots from the vaccine.

Johnson, who works with children at a music school, isn’t worried.

She thought she’d have to wait longer to get her shot but hopes to secure an appointment soon if she can.

“It feels kind of uplifting with all the bad news and stuff happening,” said Johnson. “It’s kind of nice to know something’s changing and something’s going to be better, especially for a good chunk of the population.”

The Osborne Village Pharmacy may be all booked up for now but Soliman said they are making a waiting list in case of cancellations.

The province announced last week said it would be expanding the eligibility to include first responders and people and frontline workers in geographic hot spots.

So far, no further details have been released. Officials said last week more information would be shared at a news conference on Wednesday.

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