In a sense, Maseh is celebrating that number as a sign of his pharmacy’s contribution to ending the pandemic. But Maseh also knows a bill is coming soon, as he and his staff will need to contact each of his vaccinated patients, likely one by one, to make sure they return for their second doses.
“It’s an administrative nightmare,” said Maseh, owner of Lawlor Pharmasave, an independent pharmacy located on a busy stretch of Kingston Road in eastern Toronto.
“I have to go into each patient’s profile separately, click four or five times to find their email, send an email and then ask them to book their second dose that way,” he added.
Ontario pharmacies, which can administer the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to people 40 years of age and older, are forced to go through this complicated process in large part because they are not allowed to make appointments through the provincial reservation portal.
Instead, each of them operated under a mishmash of up to three separate planning, tracking, and billing programs, which would be more complicated and more difficult to manage than a centralized system.
This approach is the cause of growing concerns that some patients may miss their second dose of vaccine, either by slipping through the cracks between different systems or because individual pharmacies may find it difficult to keep up with their growing patient lists. .
Maseh plans to hire a new employee who is exclusively responsible for handling follow-up appointments. Ultimately, he said changes that would make it easier to book appointments for pharmacies will be needed.
“If that doesn’t happen, you’re going to get a significant number of patients who won’t get their second dose,” he said.
You can search for a pharmacy that offers COVID-19 vaccines here.
Pharmacies should inform recipients
Residents of Ontario who schedule their COVID-19 vaccine appointments through the provincial booking portal are required to book first and second dose appointments at the same time.
However, services that do not use this system, such as pharmacies and pop-up clinics, “may give you instructions on how to schedule your second appointment when you receive your first dose.”
Ontario’s largest pharmacy operators Loblaw and Rexall have both said they will send notifications to recipients when they become eligible for a second dose, which is currently set for up to 16 weeks after the initial dose. .
Lisa Christensen, a Toronto resident who was vaccinated at a Shoppers Drug Mart on March 12, said she was initially told the provincial government would follow up with her to make a second appointment.
“This process appears to have been hazy,” she said.
“I’m a university and college educated person, native English speaker, middle class, read newspapers, try to keep up with the news and always find the process, at least in Toronto, all a little confusing. ”
Felixibility, to the detriment of consistency
Justin Bates, CEO of the Ontario Pharmacists Association, acknowledged the complexity and burden of the existing system on individual pharmacies, but said the decision had some advantages.
“What that meant from the start was that we gained a bit of flexibility,” he said, since pharmacies could make appointments without having to use the provincial reservation portal.
“One of the downsides is that it’s not a central system and that can create inconsistencies,” Bates added.
Other changes to complicate the second dose reservation process may also be forthcoming, including the possibility that patients who received the AstraZeneca vaccine for their first dose may receive a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine for their second dose.
Ontario has asked the National Advisory Committee on Immunization to update its recommendation on this practice by mid-May.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are more difficult to administer in pharmacies because they must be stored at much lower temperatures than the AstraZeneca vaccine.
However, Ontario is currently running a pilot project in which the Pfizer vaccine is available in some pharmacies in sensitive neighborhoods.