I had my second Covid-19 vaccine injection today! It was an uphill battle getting here, but it happened!
Continuing from where I left off when I wrote the post Am I expendable? on April 18th, I called my MLA’s office and the Ministry of Health. By that time, the cry for cancer patients to receive their second vaccine within the recommended time frame had hit the media and was definitely on the government’s radar. Though I wasn’t given any details, I was told that a decision would be announced soon.
Finally, late on the afternoon of April 22, the Chief Medical Officer of Alberta announced that cancer patients and others who were severely immunocompromised could begin booking their second appointments by phone the following day. Actually getting the appointment was quite a gong show though. I started calling first thing the next morning, but the lines were clogged. I was absolutely elated when I got through later that morning and was able to book my appointment for the morning of April 30, just two days beyond the 21 day interval recommended for the Pfizer vaccine. My excitement was short-lived, however. Within a couple of hours, I received an email, with no explanation, telling me that my appointment had been cancelled!
I immediately phoned again and made a second appointment, only to have that one cancelled the following day! At that point, I started to think that somehow the information that I was a cancer patient must not be getting into the system. I admit to being pretty hot under the collar by the time I called a third time to make the same appointment! I mentioned my suspicion and the gal who did the booking agreed with me. She told me that there was a new button to click to indicate that a caller was part of the patient group who could now book their second injections. Apparently those who took my first two calls either didn’t know that or forgot. Fortunately, while all of this was going on, today didn’t completely fill up and I was still able to get in.
I’m glad that no one checked my blood pressure during the two days that it took to finally get an appointment that stuck! The whole rigamarole certainly added to my stress level and I almost feared checking my email for the next few days in case I once again saw a “Covid-19 Immunization Cancellation” message waiting for me! After fighting so hard to see this happen, I didn’t feel 100% certain that it would until the needle was actually in my arm!
The fight isn’t over yet though. The majority of cancer patients across Canada still don’t have access to their second vaccine within the timeline proven most effective by clinical trials. CONECTed, a national network of oncology groups supported by over 17 national patient organizations, has launched a campaign asking the federal government to revise the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommendation for cancer patients so that they would receive 2 doses of Covid vaccine within 21 to 28 days of each other. They are also asking provincial and territorial governments as well as local administrators to ensure that adequate directives and resources are provided to achieve this goal.
Being fully vaccinated isn’t actually going to make any difference to how I live my life at least in the short term. It typically takes two weeks after a person is fully vaccinated for the body to produce enough antibodies to provide protection from the virus and even then, with the Covid-19 situation here in Alberta the worst it’s ever been, life won’t be getting back to “normal” anytime soon.