MPP unconcerned with few SD&G AstraZeneca drug store locations; suggests people want Pfizer

Local MPP Jim McDonell speaks to United Counties of SD&G council on Wednesday, April 22, 2021. McDonell is not concerned with the limited number of AstraZeneca drug store locations compared to our neighbours, suggesting that people prefer waiting to get the Pfizer dose. (YouTube/SD&G via Newswatch Group)

SD&G – Local MPP Jim McDonell is downplaying politicians’ concerns about the small number of pharmacy locations in SD&G for the AstraZeneca vaccine suggesting people don’t really want it.

During a SD&G county council meeting Wednesday night, McDonell faced questions from the councillors who have been hearing from upset constituents.

Asked by Coun. Allan Armstrong (North Dundas), why Leeds, Grenville and Lanark with a population of 175,000 had 24 pharmacy locations versus SD&G with a population of 200,000 had six drug stores, McDonell claims that most of those in Leeds-Grenville were already there as part of a Kingston trial.

“There is an unusual number in Leeds and Grenville and Frontenac County. Part of those or a good number of those were involved in the original Kingston trial. And they surround much of rural Kingston into Frontenac County. Oh yeah, they’re up there and they’re in the Leeds and Grenville Frontenac health unit but all but about five or six of them were there before this latest rollout,” McDonell told county council.

McDonell combined two separate health units in his comment. Leeds, Grenville and Lanark is one health unit and Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) is the other.

Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit spokesperson Susan Healey disputes McDonell’s assertion saying that LGL was part of a trial is “not true.”

“We weren’t part of it (the trial). There were no pharmacies in Leeds-Grenville and Lanark before April 1 and on April 1 there was just Brockville Walmart and Perth Shoppers Drug Mart that had it,” Healey told Newswatch.

Healey thought McDonell may have been confused that Leeds-Grenville was part of the provincial booking system trial.

Even with the limited locations in SD&G, McDonell told SD&G council that people aren’t really keen on getting AstraZeneca, evidenced by Seaway Valley Pharmacy in Winchester.

“They have some issues, unfortunately with the AstraZeneca, people are shopping around. They make appointments. They find a better appointment somewhere else and they don’t show up or they find a Pfizer somewhere. They’re dealing with a lot of no-shows,” McDonell said.

“Until this week when we lowered the age to 40, it’s was kinda tough to get rid of the AstraZeneca vaccine in many locations,” he said.

“If we have a choice between the Pfizer vaccine and what’s being given out at the pharmacies, the people have spoken very clearly what they prefer. So I don’t think it’s a real negative,” the MPP stated.

McDonell says any pharmacy that has given the flu shot is on the list to give the COVID-19 vaccine but it’s based on supply, which he blamed the federal government for that problem.

The MPP says he’s not happy though with the Ministry of Health rollout of the AstraZeneca program. Local Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis was a little more forward saying he was “extremely unhappy” with the rollout.