When Does Granny (and Grandpa) get the vaccine?

Guest Post by Ron Penney

I’m poppy to my
grandchildren and at an age where the risk of an adverse result from a bout of
covid is high. 

I’ve been taking
all the precautions recommended by public health authorities and we are fortunate
that the public health measures have worked so far. 

But the risk is
still there until vaccines are widely administered and herd immunity is
accomplished. Community spread still can occur despite our public health
measures as we can see from New Brunswick, once part of the Atlantic Bubble. 

In the US, 8 out
of 10 deaths from covid occur in people 65 and older. 

Compared to a
comparison group of 18-29 in the US, those aged 65-74 (which includes me) have
a 5 times higher risk of hospitalization and 90 times higher risk of death. The
next group, age 75-84, have a 8 times higher risk of hospitalization and 220
times higher risk of death. And for those aged over 85, there is a 13 times
higher risk of hospitalization and 630 times higher risk of death. 

There are also a
range of other health conditions which cause additional risk for all age groups
but as my fellow seniors know, it is the rare one of us who doesn’t have at
least one of them.

We have the oldest
population in Canada and the least healthy. 

Over 21% of us are
65 and older. 

So because of my
age, with one underlying health condition that I know of which might place me
at a greater risk, and given our demographics and poor health status, I was
naturally curious as to when I, and my fellow seniors, might get the vaccine. 

You might have
naturally thought , given the above, that we would have had a high priority for
getting the vaccine, but with the exception of those of us 85 and older, you
would be wrong. 

NL Chief Medical Officer of Health

The
recommendations of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), on
the prioritization of initial vaccines, published on the Government of Canada
covid website, sets out the recommended priorities. 

Stage one includes
residents and staff of congregate living spaces which care for seniors, those
70 and older in five year increments starting with those 80 and older, health
care workers and indigenous communities. NACI noted “that there is a very large
association of hospitalization and mortality particularly in those over 70 years
of age” as the justification. 

Then I looked at
our guidelines and was shocked to learn that, with the exception of those over
85, we seniors have no special priority. 

Phase one includes
the same priorities as the NACI guidelines with one notable exception, those of
us between 70 and 85. 

We aren’t even
included in the phase two priorities, which include health care workers not
included in phase one, essential workers, and residents and staff of other
congregate living spaces. 

We are included in
phase three along with the other members of the general public with no special
priority. At this rate I expect to get my shot in September at the earliest
based on the above! 

This didn’t make
much sense to me so I reached out to public health officials. Their email
addresses are well hidden so the closest I could find was their communications
officer, who I emailed on December 23. Having received no response I sent her a
reminder on January 6 and still no response. 

This is
unfortunately typical of the public service of the province in my experience
and that of other engaged citizens I am in contact with. With rare exceptions
emails are never responded to or even acknowledged.

 I was a senior
government official for many years and anyone who communicated with me received
a timely acknowledgment and response. The word “public” in public servant meant
something to me but the culture of the public service has certainly changed for
the worse over the years. 

As a further
example I have been following with interest the award of the contract for the
public private partnership to construct the new mental health hospital and
noticed there was a recent  technical
briefing for the press, following controversy over the award. I asked for a
copy of the technical briefing from the communications officer listed on the
press release. As you will guess – no response. But I got it from another
source! More on that later. 

We are now in the
midst of an ill-advised provincial election, but the thing about we seniors is
that we vote in large numbers and the most important issue on our minds is when
do we get the vaccine.

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