Covid vaccine and the race to the front of the line

As I’m typing this, the long-awaited and much talked about Covid-19 vaccine is on its way to Canada. Starting Tuesday, December 15, 1500 people in Ottawa will be among the first to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.

This week, I’ll be taking a look at the rollout of the vaccine in Ottawa as well as the potential impact on people with disabilities, both in long term care homes and out in the community. Please keep in mind that the news seems to change rapidly. Much of this information could be outdated when this edition comes out, but I’ll continue based on what I currently know.

As discussed in the news recently, this particular vaccine comes with many challenges, including transporting it to Canada. For the vaccine to work, it needs to be stored at a temperature ranging from -80 C and -60 C. Due to this, health care workers and caregivers in LTC homes will be given priority to receive it. By now, we’re all aware that LTC residents have been primarily affected by Covid-19. I’m conflicted on how I feel about the decision.

While I clearly understand the need to vaccinate frontline health care workers, I feel that LTC residents and others who require a caregiver should be included in discussing who receives the vaccines first. 

We’ve all seen the number of LTC residents that have sadly lost their lives due to Covid and issues related to Covid. An argument could easily be made that some cases are linked to caregivers, but not all cases.

Much has been said about LTC residents having to share a room with as many as three others due to a severe shortage of space. When you have a room with four people side by side, or a similar layout, it’s almost impossible for everyone to keep a safe distance. Add to that any pre-existing medical conditions, among other concerns, and you have a recipe for disaster.

We also need to consider a lack of PPE for residents and staff, caregivers not washing their hands, lack of airflow, and a lack of social distancing in the residence’s common areas. There have also been LTC residents entering another person’s room without any type of safety measures being taken.

Another concern that I have is this is another example of people with disabilities in the community being pushed aside or forgotten. During the pandemic, PWD have had a more difficult time with making ends meet, and not being able to access much-needed PPE such as Nitrile Gloves to receive care in their homes. All three levels of Government have primarily ignored our needs, especially during Covid.

Let’s switch over to the caregiver’s side.

Caregivers of all types have also been heavily impacted by Covid-19. Issues such as a lack

Of PPE, patient overload, unsafe work environments, and mental/physical exhaustion are just some of the many caregivers’ concerns. We can’t forget to mention how much caregivers have sacrificed to ensure the well-being of those they care for. In many places, there’s been a severe shortage of staff in hospitals, long-term care homes, and people receiving care in their homes.

It’s hard for me to pick a side in regards to who gets the vaccine first. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need to have this conversation. The pandemic has made us think and have conversations that we didn’t think we’d ever have.

Speaking of conversations.

Last week, I asked a question on Social Media. I asked people if they planned to get the vaccine. A large number of people responded yes without hesitation. Others said yes, but were willing to wait for those at greater risk to get it first. This was followed by other people taking a wait and see approach. Some just flat out said no, in some cases due to their disability or medical condition.

People were eager to talk about it.

As for me, right now, I’m taking a wait and see approach. The main reason is I haven’t noticed or heard about if it’s safe for someone with my condition to receive it. As I mentioned above, I have friends who cannot get it due to medical reasons.

So, until the day one of the Covid-19 vaccines has been deemed safe for me, and that I have confidence in it, I’ll wait.

I’m hopeful that this’ll be the first step in life returning to normal, or perhaps better than it was.

Photo: iStock