Vaccine rollout should follow Health Canada recommendations prioritizing Seniors
C.A.R.P. members have been calling and writing, sharing their concern as the news about delayed access to COVID-19 vaccines frightens and angers seniors across Canada.
Other jurisdictions, including the USA, Israel, UK and Italy are faring much better than Canada in timely access to approved vaccines.
Even though Canada is a laggard in acquiring the vaccine, the concern is heightened when those who are at the most risk of dying from the COVID-19 virus, are not at the front of the line.
When Health Canada’s approval of the first vaccine was first announced, C.A.R.P. made it clear that all provinces should follow the recommendations of the National Advisory Commision on Immunization, NACI.
The NACI recommendations prioritize residents and staff of congregate living settings that provide care for seniors. Adults 70 years of age and older, beginning with adults 80 years of age and older, then decreasing the age limit by 5-year increments to age 70 years as supply becomes available. Health care workers (including all those who work in health care settings and personal support workers whose work involves direct contact with patients). Adults in Indigenous communities where infection can have disproportionate consequences
Unfortunately, C.A.R.P is aware of many instances where these recommendations are not being followed, with no emphasis on getting the vaccine to seniors living in the community, who are still at very high risk, due to their age and the continued rise in community spread of the virus.
But, according to Ontario’s plans for Phase 2 of the vaccine roll out, seniors under age 80 will be competing for limited vaccine supply with 150,000 teachers, 25,000 police, 13,000 firefighters and tens of thousands of others who are at a lower risk of dying or having severe outcomes from the virus.
Bill VanGorder, C.A.R.P.’s Chief Policy Officer, has been outspoken about this issue and says seniors are not being prioritized as mandated by the Federal Guidelines. While nursing home residents may be receiving the vaccine, seniors living at home aren’t due to start receiving it, in most provinces, until April.
“We know bad community spread is,” he told the CBC in a recent interview. And given that older adults are the most vulnerable, “why would we not want to vaccinate them just as quickly as possible?”
VanGorder anticipated this exact problem back in December. In an interview with Zoomer Magazine, he said there would be tremendous pressure from a variety of groups to have their members receive the vaccine first. “All public health guidelines point to the fact that age should be a key factor in deciding who gets the vaccine,” he said.
C.A.R.P. will continue to report on the pace of vaccination rollout, from province to province, and whether or not seniors really are the priority. “As we’ve seen through this pandemic,” he says, “governments all say the right thing. Getting it done is another matter.”
Read Bill VanGorder’s further comments with major media across Canada below:
Contact your MPP or Minister of Health to demand vulnerable seniors are at the front of the line for COVID-19 vaccination.