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Demand strong for free COVID-19 test kits now in some pharmacies

Only about 600 of B.C.’s 1,300 to 1,400 pharmacies had the rapid antigen tests in stock as of Friday afternoon.
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Pharmacist Slava Lovesar holds a rapid COVID-19 test kit at London Drugs in Saanich Plaza on Friday. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Free five-packs of rapid antigen COVID-19 tests for those over age 70 finally showed up at Heart Pharmacy in Cadboro Bay about 2:30 p.m. Friday, but demand began building up long before that.

Lead pharmacy assistant Brynn Erickson said there was a “very, very limited stock” of 40 to 50 kits.

People were phoning all through the day, she said. “We’ve been keeping track and we’ve been getting a call about it every five minutes.”

Inquiries were also coming in “non-stop” in previous days, Erickson said.

On Friday afternoon, B.C. Pharmacy Association president Jamie Wigston said the kits had arrived at only some pharmacies. “It’s definitely not at every single pharmacy.”

He said about 600 of B.C.’s 1,300 to 1,400 pharmacies had the tests in stock — a full list is on the association’s website at bcpharmacy.ca. About 865,000 test kits are being sent to pharmacies by the provincial government.

Wigston said a steady stream of people had been coming in to ask about the tests at his New Westminster pharmacy, which had received some of the supply.

“Right now, it’s only for people 70 and older,” he said. “So I imagine if they do end up bringing the age down, it’ll be quite busy.”

Wigston said he wasn’t surprised at the level of interest in the tests. “People really wanted to have them as an assurance,” he said. “When they do feel like they’re getting sick — they’ve got a sore throat, a cough or something — they can check if they do or don’t have COVID.”

Other pharmacies contacted by the Times Colonist said they are expecting to have the tests by next week.

Those age 70-plus are limited to one kit per person over a 28-day period and must show a B.C. Services Card. Distribution is expected to be expanded to include people under 70 as supply increases.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said the intent is for the tests to initially go to people most at risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

jbell@timescolonist.com