Calls for expanded eligibility as Alberta pharmacies report wasted vaccines

Calgary –

Some Albertans are calling for the provincial government to expand additional vaccine eligibility as Omicron concerns spread and demand for third shots sputters. 

Thursday marked the first day that those aged 50 and up were able to receive another dose.

But inside some pharmacies, appointments have gone unbooked and interest among older Albertans seems to be limited. 

As of Wednesday, fewer than 50 per cent of those who qualified for a shot and who were already fully vaccinated received another available dose.

Polaris Travel Clinic in Airdrie was one of three pharmacies that told CTV News it had more vaccine demand than supply. 

“The criteria for getting a third dose has been pretty limited, so maybe there’s been a bit more wastage,” pharmacist Jason Kmet said. “The Moderna (vaccine) packages have 14 doses and you have to use them within 24 hours, so there have been times where you’ll have a situation where you’re not able to fully utilize all the doses within the timeframe.

“But we have no shortage of people who want to get a first dose but don’t qualify.”

Kmet is just one Albertan calling for expanded eligibility. 

SHOTS INTO ARMS

Eight of Canada’s provinces and territories have already made additional doses available to those 18 and older, some using a shortened shot interval. 

Alberta argues it can’t. 

“The reality is we can only increase appointment availability at the pace of the supply that we have procured by the federal government,” Premier Jason Kenney told reporters Wednesday. 

The premier says federal supply delays are responsible for the slow rollout. 

The federal government won’t say if there are enough vaccines to expand eligibility in the province — only that more shots are eventually coming. 

It has signed agreements to purchase up to 76 million doses of Pfizer and 36 million doses of Moderna in 2022.  

OVERTAKING OMICRON

As the Omicron variant spreads, most experts agree an additional shot is no longer just something that’s nice to have. 

“We need to have people have more antibodies, which means they need that third dose,” infectious disease specialist Cora Constantinescu said. “Having that boost or that third dose seems to be more protective against this new variant, which is spreading incredibly fast.”

Canada will likely see a large number of breakthrough infections this winter, but officials are still hoping to get a handle on severe outcomes. 

A recent study of preliminary data out of South Africa showed two Pfizer doses only provided about 33 per cent protection from infection and that they were only about 70 per cent effective at preventing hospitalization.

Data from Pfizer suggests a booster will bring virus fighting antibodies back up to levels similar to those that they were against the Delta variant.

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