British Columbians turn to social media to find remaining AstraZeneca vaccine doses
VANCOUVER -- A week after the AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for people 40 and older, British Columbians desperate to get their shot are turning to social media to locate doses that are still left in pharmacy freezers.
Candice Wichers saw a Twitter post from Vaccine Hunters Canada about walk-ins at a Shoppers Drug Mart in Surrey, and rushed over to join the line on Monday morning.
“Very relieved. I have been searching for somewhere to get a walk-in because (since) I registered, I haven’t heard anything yet,” Wichers said. “We were lucky that we found Vaccine Hunters were tweeting places that were taking walk-ins.”
With most pharmacies only vaccinating people with booked appointments, and waitlists getting longer by the day, finding a walk-in may be the best way for people who want AstraZeneca to get their shot.
“We wanted to make sure the public had the opportunity to get the vaccine, and the walk-in is a way to feel like the pharmacist is reachable and they can actually get here fast and get the dose that they need,” said pharmacist and owner Sukhvir Seehra.
He was surprised so many patients who came for their vaccine had heard about the walk-in clinic on Vaccine Hunters Canada.
“I had no idea it would reach so many people,” Seehra said. “Even I’m surprised by the amount of people here today, and extremely pleased.”
Vaccine Hunters Canada is sourced through an app called Discord. B.C. moderator Vitalisa Mikolajczak says it takes information about available doses from the community and directly from pharmacies.
“Sometimes there will be a cancellation someone will notice, or there will be a couple of extra slots and people will come to the discord and saying hey, I notice there are 50 slots for tomorrow, does anyone need them?” said Mikolajczak.
“We verify it as best we can, and then post it on Facebook and Twitter.”
That’s where many, if not most of the people who waited for up to three hours in line at the Surrey Shoppers Drug Mart heard about the walk-in clinic.
“People have been extremely grateful and also very patient. Because we had so many people here, it does take a little bit of time even though it is a walk in, and no one is upset about waiting,” said Seehra.
While he had originally planned two more walk in clinics later this week, the social media fueled rush depleted the pharmacy’s supply much quicker than he anticipated.
“We’ve only got about 100 left,” Seehra said at around 12:30 p.m. on Monday. “There is a good chance I will actually be able to finish them all today at the rate we are going right now.”
People who got their vaccine after learning about the clinic on social media are elated. “So happy I’m going to high five everybody,” laughed Wichers.