On Tuesday it was reported that Ontario pharmacies would soon be able to conduct COVID-19 testing for symptomatic individuals in the province, but the change is being met with questions, including some pushback from health experts.
To date, COVID-19 testing could only be done at pharmacies for individuals who are not symptomatic, have not been in contact with someone known to have COVID-19 within the past 14 days and have not been advised to quarantine in the last 14 days.
When asked about this change on Tuesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the province is "going to have the protocols in place" to make this change safe.
"We're going to be very cautious," Ford said, adding that all the public health units in the province will have the "flexibility" to make their own decisions.
"We still have a masking policy, they're going to have dedicated lines going into the pharmacy, but we're going to throw everything we can at it."
Sending people with COVID symptoms into pharmacies is going to cause fear and anxiety.
Seniors, immunocompromised folks and parents with unvaxxed kids need to pick up prescriptions safely.
I’m calling on Ford to pause this new program until the risks can be clarified. #onpoli
— Andrea Horwath (@AndreaHorwath) November 16, 2021
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath issued a statement in response to the provincial government moving to allow pharmacies to test symptomatic individuals for COVID-19, calling on Ford to pause this new program.
"Pharmacies need to be safe for seniors, immunocompromised people and parents with unvaccinated little ones, who all need and deserve to get their prescriptions without extra fear of being exposed to COVID," the statement reads. "Sending symptomatic people that we suspect have COVID into that setting is going to cause fear and anxiety, and we can only hope it doesn’t result in vulnerable people getting COVID."
Others in Ontario, including health experts, have raised questions about the ramifications of this change in the province's COVID-19 testing strategy.
Will people forgo getting their flu shot at pharmacies where symptomatic #COVID testing is co-located?
If so, has @ongov modeled the impact on overall flu shot uptake & the influx of those seeking shots in safer venues like MD offices?
— Michael Warner (@drmwarner) November 17, 2021
Happy Wednesday & good morning to everyone except Doug Ford, who is allowing COVID testing for symptomatic people at poorly ventilated Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacies where vulnerable people pick up prescriptions.
Can we please just rename #ShoppersDrugMart to #ShoppersDougMart?
— Naheed Dosani (@NaheedD) November 17, 2021
Welcome to Doug Ford’s Ontario, where a mainstay of the COVID response is Shoppers Drug Mart, a place where you can now get tested for COVID if you have symptoms & also get infected with COVID while picking up prescriptions.
Time to rename #ShoppersDrugMart to #ShoppersDougMart?
— Dr. Amit Arya (@AmitAryaMD) November 17, 2021
— Andrew Morris (@ASPphysician) November 17, 2021
directing symptomatic patients to a pharmacy in the winter when COVID19 is airborne is cruel public health policy for the holidays.
— Andrew Baback Boozary MD (@drandrewb) November 17, 2021
Seems @ShopprsDrugMart is partnering with the Ontario govt on an ill-conceived plan that will have unvaccinated individuals clustered together in poorly ventilated spaces with people seeking testing for covid.
I'll be using a different pharmacy, thank you.
— David Fisman (@DFisman) November 16, 2021
“Absolutely ridiculous...it just does not seem like a good idea.”#Ontario pharmacies will soon test symptomatic people for #COVID19.
Without capacity limits and ventilation standards, this seems like a surefire way to infect others and cause outbreaks.https://t.co/j2fVlnWkpi
— Nathan Stall (@NathanStall) November 17, 2021
— Mary Fernando MD (@MaryFernando_) November 16, 2021
Given announcement of symptomatic COVID testing in #Ontario @ShopprsDrugMart, I've just texted my Shoppers client Dad that it's time for him to find a new pharmacy. Have given up trying to understand government COVID calculus, but how is this a wise Shoppers business decision? pic.twitter.com/QQ2lzHPR6r
— Yoni Freedhoff 🟣, MD (@YoniFreedhoff) November 16, 2021