Confusion and disappointment permeated the back end of a Winnipeg lineup Monday morning, as hundreds of people were turned away less than an hour after a COVID-19 vaccine clinic was set to start.

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Confusion and disappointment permeated the back end of a Winnipeg lineup Monday morning, as hundreds of people were turned away less than an hour after a COVID-19 vaccine clinic was set to start.

By 9 a.m., a line of hundreds hoping to get a Pfizer vaccine dose snaked from the Shoppers Drug Mart (43 Osborne St.), down Roslyn Road, around Nassau Street North, and into the River Avenue Safeway parking lot.

Around 9:45 a.m., a security guard — who had handed out passes allowing entry to the first 500 people — stopped on Roslyn Road and let those in the general vicinity know there were going to be no more shots beyond that number doled out that day.

What came next was a flurry of complaints and questions, with some leaving the line immediately and others lingering in an attempt to figure out what was going on.

Juan Ferrer, who just missed out on getting in for a second dose, despite having arrived around two hours in advance, called the situation "crazy."

He took it upon himself to travel back into the crowd of hundreds lined up behind him to let them know they wouldn’t be getting a vaccine dose Monday.

"Everybody is frustrated… to come out of this with no vaccine, hoping for a vaccine, is kind of ridiculous," he said.

Ferrer was seeking specifically to get a second dose of Pfizer as soon as possible, and isn’t interested in switching out his second dose with Moderna.

"Nobody really wants to do the mixing… now the guy’s saying there’s no more Pfizer," he said.

Ferrer isn’t alone. Many in the line said they had decided to camp out before the sun rose in hopes of getting their second dose of Pfizer, because they felt unconvinced mixing Pfizer and Moderna for first and second shots was safe or effective.

Such fear is unwarranted, chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said Monday, when asked about the long lineups at walk-in centres.

"We know that Pfizer and Moderna are really the same vaccine, the same delivery mechanism, the same mRNA vaccine. We’re not concerned about the safety or the effectiveness of the interchangeability of those," he said.

"It’s certainly there as an option, and I would take the vaccine that’s available, and we can be sure that that interchangeability is safe."

One person who got a ticket to a second dose Monday morning, Kenji Reyes, had been waiting since 6:30 a.m. for the chance to get Pfizer as a second dose.

He said he wants to get his vaccination card as soon as possible and isn’t comfortable with the idea of mixing doses.

"We’re Pfizer, that’s why we went here," he said. "For me, they said it’s safe to mix the vaccine, but for me, I don’t want it. I want just one, if it’s possible."

Ferrer attended the clinic with his mother, Teresa Ferrer, herself a health-care worker at a home for people with disabilities. She received her first dose of Pfizer last month, and like her son, wanted the second to be the same brand.

She came straight to Shoppers Drug Mart after her night shift, and was frustrated to have been so close to the cutoff. Teresa Ferrer said she’d be rushing home to get a quick nap in before going to her second job, and wasn’t sure if she’d try the walk-in route again.

"There isn’t any other way to get Pfizer… the second dose wasn’t supposed to be (scheduled) until August, imagine that," she said. "So if I could get it earlier, why not?"

malak.abas@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: malakabas_

Malak Abas

Malak Abas
Reporter

Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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