A Winnipeg man is disappointed but determined after 10 fruitless attempts to get a flu shot.
That's because a country-wide flu vaccine shortage has left Manitoba pharmacies in limbo for weeks as stores await deliveries.
A handful of pharmacies told the Free Press their orders were late, some by as much as one month. And Pharmacists Manitoba said some of its members have yet to receive any vaccine at all.
After visiting five pharmacies on multiple occasions over the last three weeks, Don Leitch has yet to get his shot.
Each pharmacist’s response? "Sorry, you’ll just have to try again," Leitch said, adding he was told on multiple occasions that city pharmacies were running low on the vaccine.
"I’m persistent, I’m going to get it – but how many people are going to give up?"
The shortage "blunts" the province’s robust vaccination awareness campaign, he said.
Last month, provincial officials notified health-care providers about order cuts due to shortages. Limited manufacturer supply and delays are being cited as the cause.
The latest update on the province’s flu distribution website states all orders were expected to be sent out at max capacity and be complete by Friday. It also states recipients should expect "longer than normal turnaround time" for non-emergency orders.
"We’re all trying to help out patients in this province and it’s just been a difficult go, trying to acquire enough flu shots for everyone," said Scott Groen, who manages Tache Pharmacy.
When the St. Boniface-based pharmacy finally received its supply, it was about 10 per cent less than expected. The pharmacy has had to turn down businesses asking for flu shot clinics due to limited supply and high demand, Groen said.
On Friday, the Shoppers Drug Mart website showed flu shots weren't available at several locations in Winnipeg — although a spokesperson said none of the stores in the province were experiencing shortages.
Despite shortage concerns, officials assured Manitobans there would be sufficient supplies when the annual flu shot campaign kicked off on Oct. 24, at which point Manitoba had received 84 per cent of its total allotment of vaccine.
Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen was unavailable for an interview Friday, but a provincial spokesperson said the health department has since received 100 per cent of its order.
"Manitoba Health Seniors and Active Living … has shipped out more vaccine at this time of the season, than in any previous season," the spokesperson said, adding that "many" pharmacies have placed second orders for the vaccine.
Individual vaccine orders are filled and distributed in rotating groups in Manitoba. The rotations change year-to-year, meaning that health care providers take turns receiving the first batch. Subsequent orders are filled on a first come, first serve basis.
In 2018, more than 336,000 flu shots were administered in the province, setting a record for Manitobans vaccinated during the seasonal flu shot campaign.
Manitobans who are six months or older are eligible for a free flu vaccine. In addition to pharmacies, injections are available at public health offices, nursing stations, doctors’ offices, Access Centres and immunization clinics.
Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.