Lineups, flu shot shortages reported at pharmacies across Winnipeg

Lineups to get flu shots are being reported at several pharmacies across Winnipeg, with some clinics running out of supply in just 24 hours — but Manitoba has no shortage of vaccine to go around, a provincial spokesperson says.

The current shortages at some locations are because doses of the influenza vaccine are shipped to priority locations first, including hospitals, long-term care homes, and First Nations communities, the province said.

After that, they are delivered to other providers, like doctors’ offices and pharmacies.

“Manufacturers provide vaccine to the provinces based on a delivery schedule, not all at once. Because of this and the large volume of orders, it takes a few weeks to work through all of them,” a provincial spokesperson wrote.

65% of vaccine order filled so far

Health officials across Canada have been urging people to get flu shots this year, in hopes of avoiding a spike in flu cases along with increasing COVID-19 numbers in much of the country.

Many provinces, including Manitoba, increased their flu vaccine orders this year in anticipation of greater demand. Manitoba boosted its vaccination order by 20 per cent over a typical year, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said earlier this month.

Currently, about 65 per cent of the province’s flu vaccine order has been filled, the provincial spokesperson said in an email to CBC News on Saturday.

“Additional shipments are scheduled, and the vaccine warehouse has vaccine in stock.”

The province’s vaccine warehouse is prioritizing flu vaccine orders, according to an update posted Friday. When the doses arrive, they are checked for quality control before being sent out to health-care providers.

The flu vaccination program in Manitoba officially launched just over a week, with the premier rolling up his sleeve for a photo shoot with Dr. Roussin.

“It has never been more important for Manitobans to get the flu shot,” Premier Brian Pallister said.

WATCH | Premier Brian Pallister kicks off flu vaccine campaign Oct. 15:

The annual flu vaccination program in Manitoba started Thursday while the province also faces the worst stretch so far in its COVID-19 pandemic battle. 1:55

The day after that launch, some pharmacy owners in Winnipeg said they were already forced to cancel planned flu shot clinics because their shipments still hadn’t arrived.

They criticized the province for not communicating with them about its distribution schedule, which meant pharmacies didn’t know when they could schedule patients for their shot.

CBC News has reached out to Shoppers Drug Mart and Rexall for comment.

Enough doses for 40% of population

A record 26.3 per cent of Manitobans got the shot last year, and Roussin expected that number would likely reach closer to 40 per cent this season. Enough doses have been ordered to vaccinate that 40 per cent of the population. 

The province has also nearly doubled its order of the high-dose flu vaccine and expanded the criteria for distributing it to include more vulnerable seniors, such as those living in long-term care homes, correctional facilities, or in northern, isolated, or First Nation communities.

A list of locations where you can get a flu vaccine is available online, but Manitobans should contact their health-care provider first to check for availability.

Regional health authorities will start offering clinics in the next few weeks as well.

If you’ve tried to find a vaccine and haven’t been able to, the province suggests trying another provider or waiting a few days and trying again. Manitoba continues to ship doses of the vaccine every day.