VANCOUVER -- Early last week, pharmacies in B.C. were administering around 6,000 second doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine per day.

But that all changed when the National Advisory Commitee on Immunization (NACI) reversed course last Thursday and recommended that Canadians who got a first dose of AstraZeneca get an mRNA vaccine as their second dose.

In the four days since the NACI announcement, an average of 3,600 AstraZeneca doses have been administered in B.C., which represents a 40 per cent drop.

“In the beginning we had about 80 per cent saying ‘Yeah I got the AstraZeneca shot, I’m fine with it, I will do the second dose.’ And then after the announcement it was more like, ‘I got a text message from the government website, and I’m going to use the mass clinic and choose to choose to mix and match,’” said Stephanie Hahn, the district pharmacy manager for Sobey’s.

Across the Sobey’s chain, around 80 per cent of first dose AstraZeneca patients are now opting for Pfizer or Moderna, which is a complete reversal from before the NACI announcement. “This led to many people not showing up for their appointment or cancelling their appointment,” said Hahn.

At the Pure Integrated Pharmacy location in West Vancouver, 300 people got a first dose of AstraZeneca, and so far only 70 of them have opted for a second dose of AstraZeneca, even though they all received invitations for it.

“It’s not about what the recommendation is anymore, there are so many recommendations out there. It’s about the changing information. When there is changing information, people kind of lose faith,” said Maral Razai, the pharmacy manager.

Because every vial of AstraZeneca has ten vaccine doses, pharmacies have to be careful about how to schedule the few appointments they are booking.

“For instance today I was calling around to my stores saying how many do you have? Who is your neighbour store? Once you can get 10 patients together, please schedule them so we don’t waste,” Hahn said.

It’s unclear what will happen to doses that remain unused at pharmacies, or vials that have yet to be shipped out.

“If we got to this point then we didn’t know what to do with these vaccines that no one wanted, then there should be a redistribution procedure in place,” Razai said.

Hahn agrees, adding “I don’t think there is a pharmacist out there, in fact I know, that would want to waste even one dose.”