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Booster denied to vulnerable women

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Two immunocompromised women, who were deemed a priority to get the COVID-19 vaccine earlier in the pandemic, are upset they were turned away from getting their second booster shot.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/07/2022 (214 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Two immunocompromised women, who were deemed a priority to get the COVID-19 vaccine earlier in the pandemic, are upset they were turned away from getting their second booster shot.

The women said they had booked appointments June 25 to go to the supersite at the downtown RBC Convention Centre, but were turned away because they were told they didn’t appear to meet the province’s criteria.

But last year, when the vaccines first came out, both the 39-year-old woman, who received open heart surgery and a tissue transplant as both a child and adult, and her 40-year-old friend, who recently underwent chemotherapy for cancer, were deemed to be Priority 2, which meant they got the shot ahead of many members of the public.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Two women who say they were turned away from the RBC Convention Centre vaccination centre say the province should be clear about who needs a doctor’s note.

“I asked my doctor if I needed a prescription and he said, ‘Nope, if you can book it, you can go and they can also look at your past history of vaccinations,’” the 39-year-old said.

But, when the pair got to the convention centre, they were stopped at the first checkpoint.

“They said we would need a doctor’s note, but it doesn’t say that on the website,” she said. “Then they said you could call your doctor, but it was a Saturday.”

The 40-year-old said she began feeling uncomfortable because they were being asked questions about their personal medical information near members of the public who were there to get vaccinated.

“It was to the point I had to prove I’d had cancer,” she said.

“It seemed to them like we were trying to jump the line, but we have legitimate concerns and want to get the vaccine. I was a Priority 2 and I also have respiratory issues due to cancer treatment. Who is deciding this? It just seems very arbitrary now.”

A provincial government spokesperson said there are eligibility criteria and people who want the vaccine can look at the government’s website to see if they qualify (www.gov.mb.ca/covid19/vaccine/eligibility-criteria.html).

Currently, Manitobans who can get the second booster shot include residents of personal care homes, people aged 50 and older, First Nations, Inuit and Métis people aged 30 or older, and individuals 18 to 49 who are moderately to severely immunocompromised.

While overall, 81 per cent of Manitobans from age five and up have received the first dose of vaccine, and 78 per cent for the second dose, only 43.4 per cent have received a third shot, or first booster shot.

It gets lower still for the fourth shot, or second booster dose, which has only been given to 7.7 per cent of Manitobans.

“The province is not expecting to change the vaccine eligibility until the fall. If public health’s advice and recommendations for vaccine eligibility changes, updates will be provided accordingly.”

When asked if the Free Press could speak with the head of the vaccine rollout, the spokesperson replied: “Please note, there hasn’t been a vaccine task force for a few months now and clinical decisions on vaccine continue to be led by clinical and public health experts.”

Uzoma Asagwara, NDP critic for health care, said barriers to vaccination, such as a doctor’s note, must be removed.

“Vaccines not only save lives, they have made it possible to return to seeing our loved ones and participating in the activities we enjoy,” she said.

“That’s why it’s so disappointing to hear the province has disbanded its vaccine task force. With low uptake for booster doses, we need to do everything we can to reach eligible Manitobans with public awareness campaigns and community outreach.”

Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said “requiring a doctor’s note is a further waste of time and health care resources in a system that is stretched to the limit.

“It is outrageous that the PCs are making people jump through hoops for a vaccine that could save their lives. If we are going to live with COVID, then the government needs to make sure people don’t die of it. The whole point of public health — all of it — is to prevent people from getting sick and dying.

“There is no financial or medical need to ration these vaccines.”

The questions about vaccine eligibility also come at a time when both Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, and federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos have urged all eligible Canadians to get their third shot before a new, more infectious Omicron variant, hits later this summer and early fall.

Tam has said while the first two doses of the vaccine reduce the chances of being hospitalized or dying, they don’t do much to protect against Omicron, so a third dose is needed.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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