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Here's why these 2 Toronto pharmacies are no longer operating vaccination programs


Two Toronto pharmacies are no longer operating vaccination programs. Lawlor and Rylander pharmacies have shut it down due to delivery challenges, causing an inability to keep up with demand.

"We get these massive boxes in the pharmacy," said pharmacist Kyro Maseh. "Then you end up getting something this size. It's a joke. It's basically the government telling us, 'Stop doing this.' That's the message that we're getting."

Maseh says they have been putting in orders for 200 doses but only have 20 delivered, and from the Rylander location, they turn away 50 to 60 people daily.

"In this pharmacy, we're having to triage to see who we're prioritizing," he explained. "Oh, this lady has cancer. She's on chemo. Let's put her first. Which is a sad, sad way. It did not have to be this."

He says the problems started after Shoppers Drug Mart distribution was granted the provincial contract to deliver flu and COVID vaccines to his pharmacies and other Pharmasave locations.

Head of Pharmasave, Billy Cheung told CTV News that its pharmacies have been "experiencing challenges" in receiving both flu and COVID vaccines.

After this year's government bidding process in Ontario, Pharmasave received a change of vaccine distributor.

"Unfortunately, this change has created challenges, and the goal of achieving the optimal number of Ontario residents having received their flu and COVID vaccinations is being compromised," Cheung said in an emailed statement. "We have been, and continue to work with the Ministry of Health and the assigned distributor to address the issues."

To avoid problems, Cheung said the process needs to be changed, and pharmacies need to be able to use their existing distribution partner.

A spokesperson for Loblaw, of which Shoppers Drug Mart is an independent operating division, told CTV News Toronto the operator is only responsible for distributing to about one-quarter of pharmacies in Ontario.

"As a distributor, we have a number of support services in place with pharmacies to ensure a smooth process, including a daily call and a toll-free support line," the emailed statement read. "While no issues have been raised about this through those channels, we are working with the pharmacist directly.

Shoppers Drug Mart was awarded the contract through "a competitive procurement process," according to the Ministry of Health.

"As recently as yesterday, the Ministry of Health met with Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharmasave," said Hannah Jensen, Press Secretary, "and continue to have regular touchpoints over the course of the vaccine rollout to manage any issues that may arise, including requests for additional vaccine supply allocation."

Jen Belcher with the Ontario Pharmacist Association told CTV News often during the early days of the annual vaccine program, there's a high demand for flu and COVID vaccines, making orders challenging.

"This year, we have heard more of those sorts of concerns and challenges around wanting to ensure that the level on hand of each vaccine is appropriate for all demographics," said Belcher. "We don't want the Ontario public to have a concern that their pharmacies aren't or won't be a destination for vaccine in the future."

The province celebrated its vaccine rollout, where pharmacies could give both the flu and COVID shots in one appointment, but just over a week later, Maseh said it's not working.

"We want people to know we tried our best, but there are forces working against us, unfortunately," Maseh said.

He said if the province wants them to continue vaccinating, they have to work with him and change the distribution model back to what it was last year. Top Stories

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