VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Unclear messaging to pharmacies across B.C. means some people turning 40 this year have been turned down for their AstraZeneca shots when they shouldn’t have been.
According to the B.C. government website, the eligibility cut-off is a 1981 birth year.
However, just a few months from her 40th birthday, Naomi McCormick was shocked when she tried to book a shot.
“When I tried to [book with] my local pharmacy, I was immediately X’d and he said ‘you’re not old enough,’” said McCormick, recounting her experience. “So I called them and the guy I talked to was like, ‘you absolutely have to be 40 the day you get the vaccine. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts.’ And I said, ‘Well, I think Heart [Pharmacy] is going to let me do it.’ And they were like, ‘well, we prefer not to break the law.’
“They were very upset by the idea that I could be doing it. But that was the day [vaccine eligibility was extended]. So, it’s possible that now they know the policy. But I think it was very confusing for pharmacists, the day that it was announced.”
McCormick says based on her experience, it feels like it’s a bit of a “gamble” for British Columbians experiencing similar barriers.
Jennifer Thompson, who turns 40 this year, couldn’t even get past the starting line.
“I was even denied going through the booking process, and I did actually get a message saying you’re not currently 40, so you can’t go through and you can’t register for a shot,” she said.
McCormick has her immunization booked for Thursday, and she says she hopes when she gets there, she’ll actually be able to receive the shot.
“I think we’re all just so excited and encouraged and want to get the vaccine as soon as we can,” said McCormick. “I have a child at home with asthma. So the more protection we can have within our home, the better.”
Meanwhile Thompson is still on a few waiting lists after finding that large chains are booking by year, not birth date.
Not long ago, Tina Barkley had the same experience as McCormick and Thompson when 55-year-olds were eligible. She was turned away because her birthday is later this year as well.
“This was a few weeks ago, so I can’t believe now that they’re lowering it, that there’s a barrier to entry,” said Barkley. “It should just be, ‘let’s get shots in arms people.’”
While it took reaching out to a number of pharmacies, Barkley was able to find a location. But even then, the pharmacy that welcomed her in was a lucky chance.
“I just knew the pharmacist from being a regular customer,” she said.
Barkley adds the problem seems to have been communication among pharmacies. However, Health Minister Adrian Dix says, “I think the program is going well.”
Re pharmacy vaccination eligibility & some people who turn 40 this year but are being turned away, health says the cut off is birth year. @adriandix says “if there are problems I’ll be happy to look into them” (there have been problems).#bcpoli @NEWS1130 #covid19
— LizaYuzda (@LizaYuzda) April 22, 2021
“It’s been distributed to 610 pharmacies. And there is sometimes that difficulty around the ages 55 and now 40. But in general, I think the pharmacies have done an excellent job in delivering the program,” he said.
“I urge people to be patient. But I think the pharmacies that have delivered this program, on very short notice, have done an excellent job.”
And Barkley agrees, saying while the process is frustrating, “you have to sympathize.”