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Young Albertans jumping the line and getting their vaccine through waitlists

Last Updated Apr 16, 2021 at 8:46 pm MDT

CALGARY (CityNews) — Scoring a vaccine early. But how?

Some younger Albertans have received the COVID-19 vaccine well before their eligibility, all in the name of preventing wastage, and Alberta’s top doctor is not happy about it.

“That is not something that should be happening, we have heard reports, wherever we have heard that a pharmacy is doing that, we have been following up,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw. “I want to reiterate, of course, we do not want to waste any doses. However, if somebody presents to a pharmacy that they have no chronic condition, they should not be put on a waiting list.”

So how do healthy people manage to get on a pharmacy waiting list?

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“I just kept googling and kept looking at different pharmacies and one of my friends suggested looking for Rexall ones because I think they said they were on a waitlist there so I went through and went on a bunch of waitlists,” said Ashley Tollefson, a student at the University of Alberta. “I couldn’t really believe it because they still go through the waitlist by age and health conditions, and I am 24, I have no health conditions, I am not an essential worker. So I was really surprised when I found out, so there really must not be too many people on some of these waitlists if I was able to get an appointment after only waiting for a week.”

Medical experts say the key principle of waitlist management is a single point of entry. This was ignored with Alberta’s vaccine rollout creating chaos and risking vaccine waste.

“AHS does have a good waitlist system, but when they have rolled it out to the pharmacies, and this is not the pharmacies fault, first off, they are not at fault here,” said Dr. Luanne Metz, a researcher and head of the Division of Neurology at the University of Calgary.

“It’s pretty random, they do not know when they get their supplies. People get on more than one list and they either don’t show up or they cancel. Then they have a problem, so everyone has chosen how to manage it themselves, so it’s quite a disaster.”

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Tollefson is not the only one who has managed to get a vaccine shot through a pharmacy waitlist — there are dozens of people sharing similar experiences on social media.

While some appreciate and follow, others criticize them for jumping the queue.

“I wish it didn’t work this way and I do feel guilty,” Tollefson said. “I wish someone else had the ability to get it there but I am happy that I was able to get it because it’s way better for the vaccine to go into someone than to go into the garbage.”