Vaccination rules for vulnerable group called baffling


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MANITOBA has for months required immunocompromised people to get a prescription for their third or fourth dose of a COVID-19 shot, even as it urges vulnerable populations to get boosted.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/05/2022 (389 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

MANITOBA has for months required immunocompromised people to get a prescription for their third or fourth dose of a COVID-19 shot, even as it urges vulnerable populations to get boosted.

“I was shocked. Like, why did they make it harder overnight to get this,” said Erin Dunsmore, who takes a medication that suppresses her immune system.

“They should be increasing access to the fourth dose, and encouraging people by making it easier.”

JOHN LOCHER / ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE Manitoba’s PC government, along with provincial governments across the country, are fully and completely culpable for both the inadequate uptake of booster shots and the disease and death that will surely follow.

Adults who are immunocompromised are exempt from age restrictions that limit access to a third or fourth shot, because they require more doses to mount an adequate immune response to a COVID-19 infection.

While most people are considered fully vaccinated with two shots, immunocompromised people generally require three, before moving on to a booster.

Dunsmore thus got her third shot last October, earlier than when the general public qualified, taking along proof that she was on an immunosuppressant drug, which nobody asked to see.

But when she tried to get her fourth shot last week, she hit a roadblock.

A pharmacist told her she would need a doctor to prescribe her that COVID-19 shot — and that proof she takes a certain medication would not suffice.

Indeed, Manitoba’s clinical guidelines for COVID-19 vaccines, last updated April 19, state that “individuals who are immunocompromised must have a prescription, if receiving a third or fourth dose outside of their physician or pharmacist’s office.”

That requirement has been part of Manitoba’s manual for clinicians since at least Oct. 6.

Dunsmore said getting the prescription wasn’t a huge deal. She’s in regular contact with her specialist’s clinic, which sent her a prescription via its online platform.

But she wonders how others would do, including people unfamiliar with computers, people who hold down multiple jobs, or those with weak immune systems who are anxious about visiting a doctor’s office during a pandemic.

“If they’ve made the decision that certain categories of people like myself are eligible for it early — because of the health conditions we have, or the medications we take — then why are they suddenly making it harder for us to get it,” she asked.

“They’re saying from the other side of their mouth that they want everyone to get their fourth dose. It seems like there’s a disconnect.”

On Tuesday, Manitoba Health appeared to backtrack. A spokesman could not explain what had prompted the policy. He said the rules require higher-risk people to get their third dose with authorization from a clinician, but afterwards they should be fine to get a fourth dose without special permission.

“The province is updating guidance: certain immunocompromised individuals (moderately to severely immunocompromised) are eligible to receive a three-dose primary series. This requires an assessment by a physician or pharmacist,” the spokesman wrote.

“Those eligible for a three-dose primary series do not require a prescription or further assessment, and can receive a fourth dose at the recommended interval.”

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization, which advises provinces on how to prioritize and schedule vaccine doses, doesn’t mention requiring a prescription for shots.

Meanwhile, the province’s online vaccine portal lists pharmacies that give out doses. But phoning them or using a chain store’s booking system reveals that many require an appointment, often at least 10 days in advance.

“Until recently, the messaging was to go to any pharmacy, and get your shot. Like, do it now; do it yesterday,” Dunsmore said.

In Manitoba, 43 per cent of the population has received three shots of a COVID-19 vaccine; just 13 per cent of the small group that qualifies for a fourth shot have done so.

“I find it hard to believe that the reason for the lack of availability is that too many people are clamouring for it,” said Dunsmore.

Officials in other provinces have said they are trying to schedule appointments in blocks, because one vial includes as many as 14 doses and must be used within hours of being opened.


Updated on Wednesday, May 4, 2022 6:00 AM CDT: Adds photo

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