Vaccine shortages cause UVic flu clinic cancellations, delays

Campus National News

Nation-wide shortages impact campus shot supplies

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Second-year students Kaye Miller and Keelie Taylor arrived at the Human and Social Development building on Nov. 7 for UVic’s flu clinic, which is free for students and staff —-  only to find it deserted.

Amidst national flu shot shortages, several campus flu shot clinics have been subject to cancellations and delays, including UVic’s annual free clinic for students and staff on Nov. 7.  For the last few weeks, local pharmacies have had to turn away customers seeking flu shots due to a delay in supply from the vaccine manufacturer.

“We got here early ‘cause we remembered how long the lines were last year. We got in there and it was completely empty. [We] checked online and there was a little note saying its cancelled, no reason,” said Taylor, who is studying marine biology. “We [then] went to the campus pharmacy ‘cause we knew that they did flu shots and they’re out of flu shots [too].” 

While no reason was provided on the university website, the clinic’s Facebook event page stated that “Unfortunately, this flu clinic has been cancelled due to vaccine availability.”

A flu clinic run jointly by UVic Family Centre and the UVSS Campus Pharmacy on Nov. 5 was also cancelled due to shipment delays. 

According to UVic Media Relations, UVic Health Services was informed on Nov. 6 that the vaccines would not be available for the flu clinic the following day, but the university says they are hopeful that vaccines will be available for the next flu clinic on Nov 27th. 

The Canadian government recommends annual flu shots for everyone older than six months as a preventative measure against ever-mutating viral flu strains, which caused 3 657 reported hospitalizations and 223 confirmed deaths during last year’s flu season. However, the unpredictability of this year’s strains caused vaccine manufacturing delays across the country.  

Staff Pharmacist James McCullough at the UVSS Campus Pharmacy said that they also ran out of vaccines on Nov. 6. 

“This year, we weren’t given as many as we usually request so all of our stores ran out pretty quickly,” said McCullough. “We normally do a lot of clinics on campus, which requires hundreds of doses.”

The government works closely with publicly funded health service providers to distribute influenza vaccines across the country. In Victoria, clinics and pharmacies order flu shots from the two health units in Greater Victoria. Normally, McCullough said, Heart Pharmacy (the company that operates the SUB pharmacy) orders thousands of doses between their four local stores.

“In our Cadboro Bay location, we got in our first wave [of shipments] mid-October — 200 doses — which lasted us three or four days,” McCullough said.

When asked for more details on the cancellation of the flu clinic, UVic Health Services’ referred the Martlet to their communications coordinator, who referred us to UVic media relations, who in turn referred us back to Health Services. Neither department has provided a comment by the time of publication.

As for the students? “With our luck, we’ll probably get the flu today,” Taylor jokes.

This story was updated on Nov. 20 at 3:10 p.m. to include comment from UVic Media Relations and Public Affairs.