Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist, an independent pharmacy in Toronto, Monday, April 19, 2021. Younger Canadians in several provinces are now able to get the AstraZeneca vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist, an independent pharmacy in Toronto, Monday, April 19, 2021. Younger Canadians in several provinces are now able to get the AstraZeneca vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

AstraZeneca vaccine appointments fill up fast on Vancouver Island

More pharmacies expected to be added as supply increases

All people aged 40 and up can now book appointments to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 at pharmacies across B.C., but it may take some extra work, or at least patience, for those on Vancouver Island.

As of Thursday morning, the B.C. government lists 37 sites on the Island offering AstraZeneca, but bookings for many have filled up fast, and nearly all of those sites are in the Nanaimo, Parksville and Greater Victoria areas.

The provincial Ministry of Health is offering two ways to get AstraZeneca. Under one system, the vaccine will be delivered to people ages 40 and up in high-transmission neighbourhoods, based on postal code. All of those neighbourhoods are located within the Fraser, Vancouver Coastal and Northern Health authorities.

Islanders, meanwhile, can get the vaccine by booking an appointment at one of the hundreds of participating pharmacies across the province. There are about 600 offering it, but those numbers are likely to increase.

“As supply increases, there will be an opportunity for more pharmacies to come online,” said Leah Holoiday, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health.

Participating pharmacies are listed on the Ministry’s website (https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/covid-19/vaccine/pharmacy). The London Drugs in Campbell River was added to the list on Tuesday afternoon, but is not represented on the map.

The London Drugs in Duncan is offering the AstraZeneca vaccine, but as of Tuesday, April 20, all appointments appear to be booked. Holoiday did not offer an explanation as to why the Duncan London Drugs was not on the Ministry’s list. More information about booking appointments at London Drugs locations can be found at londondrugs.com/covid19

The Comox Valley has no pharmacies on the AstraZeneca list either, but Powell River, just 35 kilometres away as the crow flies but 90 minutes by ferry across the Salish Sea, has five such locations. At least one Comox Valley resident was offered an appointment in Powell River, but declined. Powell River is part of the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority.

“The B.C. government is currently underway with the largest immunization effort in the province’s history,” Aileen Machell, communications director for B.C. Government Health Communications said. “And to address high-transmission areas, the Province has directed vaccine supply t0 be primarily allocated to high-risk areas, particularly in the Lower Mainland.”

According to Machell, 1,150 doses were administered in the 24 hours leading up to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 21.

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