COVID-19: Unichem pharmacy opens drive-thru vaccine clinic in Christchurch as demand for jab skyrockets

A pharmacist in Canterbury has been forced to open a drive-through COVID-19 vaccination clinic in the central city because of the overwhelming demand for vaccines.

Canterbury has been slow in its vaccination rollout for COVID-19 and still lags behind most other District Health Boards for vaccination progress. 

But on Thursday there were queues in Cashel Mall. The iconic retail strip had morphed into a pop-up vaccination clinic, complete with grounded airline pilots on traffic control.

Unichem Cashel Pharmacy was forced to take action after the demand for vaccines skyrocketed.

"A number of our customers were very desperate to get their vaccination and were eligible to get it so we were getting inundated with emails and phone calls about how they could get one and when they could get one," said pharmacist Annabel Turley.

At least one dose has been delivered to 42.6 percent of Canterbury's population 16 years and over and 21.7% of Cantabrians have had both doses. 

It's been ramped up lately with the DHB also doing drive-thru clinics, but there are still issues. People on Thursday booked through Unichem after little luck through Government channels.

"You couldn't click on any of the dates, or if you went forward to other dates nothing was showing up so I don't know what was going on there," said Christchurch resident Chris Mills.

"I was booked in for late September, early October. I just booked that recently and when this came through I thought 'I can get in quicker,'" said fellow local Mel Mazey.

Turley said even getting the extra vaccines from the Canterbury DHB was difficult at first.

"They like us to give them eight days' notice if we're increasing our capacity, but as I said to them, Jacinda didn't give us eight days' notice for the lockdown."

The CDHB wouldn't front on Thursday, saying it was extremely busy with its COVID-19 response. 

But it was questions about their response Newshub was wanting to put to them.

The South Island still has no COVID-19 cases but drew a sharp intake of breath after wastewater test results showed the virus had been detected from the Christchurch catchment.

Only to let out a sigh of relief seconds later, with three positive cases in the city's managed isolation facilities.

"And that is consistent with the virus being shed from those cases," Director of Public Health Caroline McElnay said.

But people are still worried.

"I'd be surprised if it's not here already, just the way people travel and move around these days," said Christchurch resident Anthea Hunt.

Turley said every phone call, email and customer at the pharmacy is just wanting a vaccination.