COVID-19 3 Years Later: CARP Survey shows wide gap in the experiences of immunocompromised Canadians versus the general public, as well as a way forward.
Three years in, the general public may be tired of hearing about COVID-19, but immunocompromised Canadians have the much heavier burden of living with the risk.
You might think by now Canadians are fairly aligned in their perceptions of risk and COVID-19 related behaviour. After all, vaccination coverage is high in Canada, with 83.2% of the population vaccinated with at least 1 dose. Yet, a portion of the Canadian public is immunocompromised and remains at risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 despite vaccination.
However, a recent CARP cross Canada survey in collaboration with a coalition of patient organizations shows significant differences between how the general Canadian population feels and acts about COVID-19 versus those who are immunocompromised.
According to Statistics Canada data approximately 14 per cent of Canadians aged 15 years or older are immunocompromised and have a higher risk of severe outcomes related to COVID-19
- Older adults (increasing risk with each decade, especially over 60 years)
those with a chronic medical condition, including: asthma, COPD, diabetes, kidney disease, primary immunodeficiency, multiple sclerosis and others.
- Those with an underlying medical condition, such as cancer
- Those who take medications that reduce the immune response, such as chemotherapy
- Those who have had a solid organ or blood stem cell transplant
The survey, which garnered roughly 3,000 responses from across Canada had almost 800 respondents who identified as immunocompromised (26% of respondents).
Here is a brief summary of the findings. Click here for survey results
COVID-19 still has an impact on day-to-day life for immunocompromised (IC) individuals.
65% of IC Canadians report COVID-19 still significantly impacts their day-to-day life versus 43% of the general public.
For example, over 72% of IC Canadians continue to take precautions such as staying home, minimizing non-essential travel, avoiding home visitors, avoiding social gatherings of two or more, and staying 2 metres away from others outside of the home.
“It’s different. I’m an immunocompromised Mom and kept my youngest child home in virtual school because I could die from COVID-19. People just don’t get it. The world has moved on, but I can’t.”
There is a gap in the extent to which concern about COVID-19 has decreased for the general public versus those who are immunocompromised.
63% of the general public report their concern for COVID-19 has decreased, while about half of immunocompromised Canadians report the same (51%).
Some IC Canadians even indicate that their concern about COVID-19 has increased.
“[My concern] has changed because there are no safe spaces for my immune compromised child. No restrictions. No masking. People walking around sick everywhere. I can’t even take her to the doctor safely anymore.”
Immunocompromised Canadians and allies know what changes could be in order to improve quality of life and lessen burden in the context of COVID-19.
There is strong support from all respondents (76% of IC respondents and 65% of non-IC respondents) that immunocompromised Canadians should have additional protection and support in dealing with COVID-19.
Respondents would like to see a centralized resource hub containing updated information on COVID-19 and upcoming treatments as well as programs for educating the public on the impact of COVID-19.
While all respondents were largely aware that COVID-19 vaccinations do not provide the same protection to immunocompromised individuals as they do to the general public, there are still major gaps in awareness of key COVID-19 information provision. When asked, “has your doctor talked to you about how to minimize your risk of contracting or reducing the severity of a COVID-19 infection in the past 6 months?” 66.3% of IC Canadians and 78% of the general population responded no.
- Access to new therapeutics
Simply put, immunocompromised respondents would like to see more effective vaccines, new prevention options and treatments for those who don’t mount a response to vaccines, and continual booster administration.
- Protective measures
Immunocompromised individuals would like to receive more recognition and acknowledgement from the government in their struggles with COVID-19. They want to see more initiatives from the government to protect IC patients across Canada.
“I wish more people know that my life has become MORE restricted since mask mandates were lifted.”The bottom line?
COVID-19 is here to stay and the stakes are still high for many Canadians. More can be done by the government and the public alike to make the ongoing impact of COVID-19 far less onerous for the most vulnerable.
“Just because you may not suffer from a compromised immune system doesn’t mean other people around you are as fortunate. I wish people were more mindful and more caring.”
For more information visit https://www.carp.ca/protect/
The educational campaign was funded with the support of an unrestricted grant from a Canadian research-based pharmaceutical company