Pharmacies see lower demand for COVID-19 boosters

By Elisa Nguyen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Several local pharmacies say they are currently not offering COVID-19 booster vaccines due to low demand and minimum batch requirements.

Pharmasave in Fort Frances hasn’t found a need to order COVID-19 boosters for the past month, says pharmacist Venkata Donthi Reddy.

“It’s been a while,” Donthi Reddy said. “If they’re looking for any booster shots, what we do is we take their phone number and call them or we place an order and call them because we don’t want to place an order under waste.”

Noting that booster vaccines have to be stored properly and come with an expiry date, he said they haven’t placed an order for the next shipment since the latest batch expired on July 31.

Pharmacist David Shwartz from Safeway Pharmacy noted the same issue regarding proper storage and says they are not offering COVID-19 booster vaccines.

“As far as I understand, COVID boosters are being offered at this time. We are not doing them. Demand is very low. And we can only order them in large batches. And it doesn’t make sense for us when the health unit is able to store them in the proper low temperature freezers for much longer than we can,” he said.

Shwartz said they have been referring people to the Northwestern Health Unit for more information on how to get a COVID-19 booster shot at this time.

“I suspect it is a lower concern at this time,” he said. “But being that it is still a new virus, we’re still learning quite a bit about it. So we will see what the future holds. I’ve tried to predict it myself sometimes and I’ve usually been incorrect. I would think that the health unit would be a better source of information on the prevalence of COVID in the area.”

Fort Frances Clinic Dispensary and Rainy Lake First Nations Pharmacy say they don’t provide COVID-19 boosters.

According to recommendations from the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU), as of July 7, 2023, anyone five years and older should consider waiting until fall 2023 for their COVID-19 booster. This is to maximize protection against COVID-19 outcomes when the spread of the virus is expected to be higher.

“Where people that are wanting to get a booster, we are asking them to consider delaying that until the fall because that’s when the respiratory season commences. So we do expect to see a bit of an increase then,” said Shannon Brown, vaccine preventable diseases manager for NWHU.

More information will be released in the upcoming weeks about the types of vaccines that will be available, says Brown.

“By then, we’ll have information about the flu vaccine too. And we’re going to try to hold both COVID and flu clinics at the same time like we’ve done in the last couple of years,” she said.