PANIC buying stemming from the threat of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has increased the demand for vitamin C supplements, leading to a shortage of the commodity across the island.
Suppliers have taken a hit as they struggle to meet the demands of pharmacies in order to appease consumers.
In addition to vitamin C, gloves, masks, and rubbing alcohol are also in low quantities in pharmacies.
When the Jamaica Observer contacted Dr Ernestine Watson, president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Jamaica (PSJ), she confirmed that there is indeed a shortage of vitamin C locally, mainly due to the panic buying and fears individuals have surrounding COVID-19.
“The stores that would have massive supplies are down to the last of it. We can’t get some supplies that we would normally be able to go to when we are out of stock, so vitamin C is completely out. I had two shelves of vitamin C. When the restrictions were announced, people were just buying alcohol, masks, gloves, so we ran out. When the supplier has vitamin C we normally order like 10 to 20 boxes. We doubled our order and we got only three boxes and that was finished within a day,” Dr Watson said in reference to her business place, Everybody’s Pharmacy.
“We didn’t get the ones you sell by the dozen, we got the retail ones and normally any amount of people come we will sell but we got three boxes of 36 and so each person would get two, so that at least more persons can get, as people would come in and want the whole box. So far, all of the suppliers have been unable to meet the demand. Persons were coming and buying boxes of vitamin C, bottles of rubbing alcohol and cases of masks. What would have normally met the demand went in a couple days. All the suppliers have restocked but the demand is so great that as you get it, it goes,” the pharmaceutical society president stated.
Subsequently, pharmacies that still have supplies of vitamin C have been limiting purchases customers can make. In some instances customers can only get one single dissolvable pill, or six, 1,000 milligrams tablets, whereas they could once purchase 12.
Despite the vitamin C shortage, Dr Watson reassured the public that multivitamins are available and can help to build the immune system as there is some level of vitamin C in it.
Dr Watson, however, encouraged Jamaicans to eat fresh fruits and exercise as they aim to combat COVID-19.
“This is a country with a lot of fruits. I have eaten so many oranges over the last couple of days and then we have some high in vitamin C content. Have fresh fruits, you can’t go wrong, and do your exercise as we try to combat it. We are a Caribbean country, we have sun, we have a lot of fresh fruits. We are not importing fruits as they are growing in abundance here and we have a lot of things like the green spinach, callaloo, we can eat healthy and combat it. The convenience of taking 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C is fine, but if you can’t get it, you can eat healthy,” she said, adding that lemon provides a good supply of vitamin C and can be had with honey.
In relation to medication used to treat flu-like symptoms, which are also associated with COVID-19, Dr Watson said those are in stock.
“For COVID you would want to use the medications that would treat the symptoms. If you have a fever, you want to take Paracetamol, Panadol, Cetamol and we have supplies of that. If you’re having a cough you want to take a cough suppressant or expectorant based on the type of cough you have and we have supplies of that. Remember, if you suspect you have the COVID-19 call the Government helpline and they will instruct you. You use these for fever and pain,” she said.
But as it pertains to the panic buyers, Dr Watson had one message — please stop it.
“That is the reason why some pharmacies try to equalise. When we get stock, we are trying to sell everybody some. When you go to the pharmacy there are some people who can buy all of your stock. But when they do that what happens to the patient who cannot afford to do so? Based on the supplies that we get we are limiting how much each person can buy, so that it is spread across,” Dr Watson said.
She added: “For those who are panic buying, listen, this is about neighbourliness. You cannot use up all of the vitamin C that you get. You are going to have it months down the line and there are expiry dates. So if they expire on you, you have to throw it out. Save some for a neighbour, share with your neighbour.”
Further, Dr Watson encouraged people to seek out information from credible sources and eliminate the spread of misinformation.
“Listen to the information coming out of the Ministry of Health and Wellness. For those of us who like to go on Google, go to the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] website, go to the WHO (World Health Organization), go to PAHO (Pan American Health Organization), the Canadian website, the UK [United Kingdom] website where credible information is available and use that. Please do not panic, practise social distancing and look out for you neighbour,” she said.
For those who are more au fait with the consequences, Dr Watson urged them to encourage others, as the best way for Jamaica to recover is through vigilance and obedience.
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